If there’s one thing that most Americans seem to share, it’s a desire to save money whenever and wherever possible. We love sales and discounts in all their many forms. That might help to explain why so many Americans can be so easily tempted by ads promising low-cost estate planning solutions. Untold numbers of Americans have flocked to these inexpensive tools, as they’re often marketed as a way to save hundreds of dollars in legal expenses. Few people ever stop to wonder why they’re so inexpensive. To help you understand why formulaic estate planning tools may not be your best option, here are five reasons why you should avoid that DIY will.
Estate Planning is Personal
One thing that cannot be forgotten is that estate planning is a very personal matter. It involves a complete examination of not only your property and other assets, but all those close relationships in your life. Who among all your friends and relatives mean the most to you? How do you decide where your assets should go? These types of decisions are always difficult to make, and can sometimes cause stress and strife if you discuss them with your loved ones in any detail. It’s often best to bounce ideas around with a dispassionate observer rather than share your private plans with your future heirs.
The problem is that DIY wills don’t provide you with that option. Instead, you’re left to your own devices and may end up struggling to decide how you should proceed. You can avoid that confusion and angst by consulting with a professional estate planning attorney. He or she can help you to sift through those choices and make the decision that’s right for your needs – while avoiding the type of intrafamily battle that might set the stage for a will contest after you die.
DIY Wills are One-Size-Fits-All
Of course, there’s also the lack of flexibility that typifies most of these DIY forms. It’s sometimes easy to forget that estate plans always seem to involve unique circumstances. It’s difficult to find any two that are ever exactly alike, since each family’s needs can be so different. And even when there are similarities, there are usually subtle differences that are almost impossible to accommodate in a one-size-fits-all form document.
The structure of those wills usually fail to provide you with the guidance you need to even know whether a will is all that you need. It may be that you have specific needs that can only be addressed using a living trust. Without sound legal counsel, how would you ever know? There may even be specific assets that you need to keep out of the probate process, using strategies like joint tenancy or payable on death accounts. Again, those are strategies that you might not even consider if all you’re doing is following along on a fill-in-the-blank form.
Who Crafted Your DIY Will?
Another major concern is whether the DIY document is even reliable. In many instances, you really have no idea who drafted the form that you’re relying on, what level of legal experience that person may have had, and whether it will even withstand a legal challenge when you die. Those are a lot of important unknowns, and they could have a dramatic impact on whether you even have a valid will when you die. And remember, once you’ve passed on, there’s no going back to fix any defects in your plan. That will either stands or falls based on its validity when you die.
Mistakes Are Common
While it might seem as though a prepackaged form document would have all the bugs worked out of it before it went to market, that’s not always the case. Probate attorneys routinely get called upon to review these types of wills, and they routinely find critical errors that could have proved disastrous for the estates of those decedents. Remember, each state has its own probate laws governing wills, so even tiny errors can render a will all but useless. Now, you could just resign yourself to the idea of paying an attorney to review your DIY will once it’s done – but if you’re going to pay a lawyer to do that, why not just have the document professionally prepared right from the start?
The Documents Offer Disclaimers
Of course, if you want a truly great reason to avoid a DIY will, just take those documents at their word. They generally come with disclaimers acknowledging that they are no substitute for sound legal advice. It’s safe to assume that you can believe those assertions then, and not rely on DIY forms as though they were anything other than what they are: a low-cost alternative for those who want to avoid the expense of an attorney.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying to save a few bucks here and there. Buy things when they’re on sale. Look for discounts. Negotiate with that car dealer for a better price on that new minivan you’ve have your eye on. When it comes to your family’s future and the important documents that will help to express your last wishes, though, there is no room for compromise. Your interests and your loved ones need the best advice and assistance that you can find, and that’s just not going to happen when you choose these types of generic form documents.
We Can Help
There may be times when DIY legal documents could be justified, but they’re such rare instances that it’s difficult to even imagine them. One thing is for certain, though: your assets, interests, and loved ones are valuable enough to be worth the extra time and expense needed to get your will prepared the right way. At the Augulis Law Firm, our experts can help you to discover why professional will creation services are so much more reliable than any DIY will could ever be. To learn more about how we can help you create the perfect will to express your final wishes, contact us at our website, AugulisLawFirm.com or give us a call at (908) 222-8803.
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