We are seeing a growing number of online websites offering Do-It-Yourself legal documents and estate-planning software.
Surprisingly, most attorneys will tell you that there are some everyday forms where this approach makes good sense. In fact, many law firms offer a selection of standard legal forms available for their clients' use at no charge. However, when it comes to wills and trusts, a poorly executed document can cause more harm than doing nothing at all.
It's important to realize that estate planning is a complex area of law, based on statutes that vary state by state and often change from one year to the next. Wills in this state have procedures and requirements that must be followed, and an estate planning lawyer knows what those stipulations are.
For example, all states require your will to be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses and they must sign in your presence and in the presence of each other. Something as seemingly trivial as improper witnessing procedure can result in the whole document being deemed null and void.
Wills and trusts aren't merely about the distribution of the deceased's funds either. Children are the most valuable “asset” of an estate, yet a recent survey found that nearly 3 out of 4 couples with minor children had made no provisions for legal guardianship of their children should an event claim both parents' lives at the same time. This may be an unusual circumstance, but it is by no means a rare one. An experienced lawyer will prepare the proper documentation needed to ensure the wishes of the parents are carried out that your DIY estate plan may miss.
Another danger inherent in DIY wills is that they give a person a false sense of security. An individual may think that his/her affairs are all in order when, in actuality, something of importance may have been left out or an area of the form filled out improperly. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all document that covers every situation. Online document mills are prohibited by law from dispensing legal advice, therefore they cannot advise you of the forms you really need to protect your family and assets, nor will they represent you in court should it become necessary.
Sadly, DIY wills and trusts that are intended to save a few bucks can easily result in estate losses of tens of thousands of dollars. If you have a DIY will or trust, the most important thing you should do is have it reviewed by an experienced attorney.
If you need assistance with this process, we are here to help you. Simply call our law firm at 770-425-6060 to schedule a complimentary consultation with the mention of this article.