These days, thanks to the availability of information on an expansive number of topics, do-it-yourself providers have emerged in a number of fields, including estate planning. While the purported low cost and ease with which you can acquire estate planning documents through a DIY service might entice you, as with any DIY solution, you should proceed with caution.
Per the American Bar Association, there are numerous reasons you should leave estate planning to the professionals. A lawyer can help you avoid the most common errors associated with DIY estate planning, such as the three below.
Failure to properly state dispositions
The law requires that a will clearly states the testator’s intent to dispose of assets in a particular way. If you fail to fail to use dispositive language, the probate court may render your will invalid or void. This risk is particularly high if you forego words of “testamentary intention,” or if you use imploring language (think, “I would like.”).
Failure to establish a voice of reason
Unfortunately, disputes often arise regarding the testator’s intentions among interested family members. If your will is unclear, the judge may struggle to divine what you really meant by a provision or directive, and he or she may turn to the person with whom you last conversed regarding your intentions. However, the judge is unlikely to rely on a beneficiary’s word and may instead turn to someone who does not stand to benefit from your will. In many cases, that final voice of reason is an attorney.
Failure to consider state laws
More often than not, DIY wills fail to comply with state laws. For instance, many states require testators to sign their wills and other estate planning documents before one or more witnesses. In others, the courts will presume a will is invalid if a beneficiary maintained a “close, confidential” relationship with the person who died. In yet others, the courts will presume that the deceased revoked his or her will if the deceased possessed the original will upon his or her death and the courts cannot locate it at death. A legal professional can ensure your will complies with all state laws and serve as an important witness if presumptions do arise.