Most people recognize the need to have at least a basic estate plan in place consisting of a Last Will and Testament at a bare minimum. If you are planning to create your Will in the near future, you may be tempted to try the “Do-It-Yourself” route in an attempt to save time and/or money. What you may not realize, however, is that failing to work with an experienced estate planning lawyer when you create your Will is more likely to cost you and/or your loved ones time and money down the road.
Your Last Will and Testament – The Foundation of Your Estate Plan
Eventually, you should have a comprehensive estate plan in place that includes strategies and tools to help you achieve a myriad of estate planning goals. When you first create an estate plan, however, you will likely start with the execution of a Last Will and Testament. Your Will allows you to accomplish three important things:
- Make 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.
- Appoint 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. Your Executor will oversee the probate process from start to finish.
- Nominate 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.
The Problem with Using a DIY Will Form:
With the pervasiveness of the internet, people now spend a good portion of their day on the internet. Moreover, most people are accustomed to finding just about anything they need on the internet, including DIY legal forms. Just because you are able to locate something on the internet, however, doesn’t mean you should trust and use what you find. This is even more applicable when it comes to legal forms. Consider the following common problems encountered when someone uses a DIY Will:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 an 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 an experienced Phoenix estate planning lawyer at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.
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