In the 21st century, it can be very tempting to turn to the internet for everything, including legal forms. If you have yet to execute a Last Will and Testament, therefore, using a DIY Will you find on the internet may seem like a simple and quick solution. An Albuquerque estate planning lawyer explains why going the DIY route can actually be dangerous for your estate, as well as costly for your loved ones.
Your Last Will and Testament
If you are like most people, the foundation of your first estate plan will begin with the execution of a Last Will and Testament. Although your estate plan will likely grow as your estate and your family blossom in the years to come, for now, your Will can accomplish several important things, including:
- Appointing an Personal Representative (a.k.a. an Executor) – after your death, your estate will likely need to go through the legal process known as probate. In your Will you appoint someone as the Executor of your estate, called the Personal Representative. Your Executor will oversee the probate process from start to finish.
• Preventing an Intestate Estate – If you die without executing a Will, your estate will be distributed using the intestate succession laws of the state in which you are a resident at the time of death. This means the State will decide who gets your assets instead of you deciding.
• Making gifts – you can make specific and general bequests in your Will. A specific bequest might include leaving your baseball card collection to your nephew; whereas a general bequest would be if you left your nephew half of your estate assets.
• Nominating a Guardian – if you have minor children, your only opportunity to tell a court who you would want to have legal guardianship over those children in the event one is needed is in your Will.
Why You Should Work with an Estate Planning Lawyer When Creating Your Will
While you can, undoubtedly, find numerous DIY Will forms on the internet, the fact that they exist does not mean you should use them. Ultimately, using these forms will likely cost your intended beneficiaries far more time and money in litigation than you saved by going the DIY route. Among the many risks you run by using a DIY Will are:
- Failed interaction between documents – using a DIY Will is problematic by itself; however, most people don’t stop there. Your estate planning documents must work in harmony with each other. The more DIY legal forms you try and use together, the higher the odds are that they will result in failure because you need experienced legal advice to accomplish this.
• Failure to distribute the entire estate – one of the most common problems with a DIY Will is failure to distribute the entire estate. One of the primary reasons for executing a Will is to avoid the state’s intestate succession laws. If any assets are left out of your Will, however, an intestate estate proceeding will have to be initiated. Unfortunately, the language in many DIY Wills does just that – results in assets being left out, triggering the state’s intestate succession laws.
• Not state specific – many of the laws that govern wills and estates are state laws. For this reason, a Last Will and Testament must be state specific to ensure it will be valid. Many DIY forms, however, are generic and do not include state specific language and/or laws.
• Out of date language or law – most DIY Last Will and Testament forms have been floating around the internet for years. Applicable laws may have changed in the interim, making some of the language in the form, or the entire form, stale from a legal standpoint. If the language used in the form is out of date it will almost certainly prompt litigation.
• Improper execution – for a Will to be valid, it must be executed using the proper procedures. Those procedures vary from one state to the next. A generic DIY Will form won’t explain how you need to execute the document to comply with your state’s laws.
Contact Albuquerque Estate Planning Lawyer
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about creating your Last Will and Testament, contact the experienced estate planning lawyers at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.
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