Estate planning can be emotionally taxing, so much so that people tend to avoid visiting an estate planning attorney, much like they avoid going to the doctor or the dentist. If you are one of those people who avoid visiting an attorney, or if you are considering using a fill-in-the-blank or do-it-yourself (DIY) will, this article is for you.
At The Germany Law Firm, we believe in prevention and protection over probate. It may be tempting to go the cheap route but trust us, DIY wills, while cost-efficient, are laden with downsides and consequences. Read on to discover why:
What is a DIY Will?
A do-it-yourself (DIY) will is a legal document you write yourself without an estate planning attorney’s guidance. A traditional choice, on the other hand, is an attorney-written Last Will and Testament (will). A will is a legal document written by an estate planning attorney that outlines your wishes concerning how your property and any pets or minor children are distributed and cared for following your death.
DIY wills don’t involve an attorney’s counsel, and testators (the person writing the will) typically use a pre-made template, will kit, or documents from online legal service providers, such as Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, 12Law, and FreeWill.
The DIY Will Trap
Imagine this – the time has come to consider how your descendants will handle the physical remains of the life you’ll leave behind. As you research options for writing a will, you stumble upon ads for popular online legal service providers.
The will template provided by these legal websites look too good to be true – they are straightforward, simple to create, and they’re quick and cost-effective to boot.
After paying a one-time fee, you get to work on a DIY will. And after spending a few hours at the computer, your will is complete; little do you know that you’ve set a vague and invalid trap for your descendants, one laden with arguments, tears, and court visits.
The Hidden Costs of DIY Wills
When something looks too good to be true, it probably is, and the following downsides quickly overshadow any initial financial and emotional benefits from a DIY will:
State Laws Aren’t Always Considered
Each state has its laws for writing a valid will, from age to mental capacity and witness requirements. For example, for a will to be considered valid in Colorado, the testator must be at least 18 years old, and at least two witnesses much sign the document before or after the testator’s death. Valid wills in Colorado must also either be typed or handwritten.
Companies offering DIY wills, however, don’t always factor in state-specific regulations regarding the validity of a will because they design the templates to appeal to a mass audience. As a result, DIY templates commonly have errors invisible to the testator’s untrained eye.
Online templates might be fast, straightforward, and cost-effective, but they lack a crucial ingredient – personalization.
Estate plans are unique to each person, meaning a personalized will is mandatory if one hopes to paint a clear picture for their heirs/heiresses.
DIY wills may lead to legal issues requiring the estate’s heirs to probate the choice. These setbacks can cost your family thousands of dollars and hours.
“Gotcha” Fine Print Clauses
At face value, online legal service companies provide what they promise, legal documents without having to consult a lawyer. Read the likes of LegalZoom’s and Rocket Lawyer’s fine print, however, and you’ll discover their limitations, in the form of disclaimers about what constitutes legal advice and liability clauses that absolve the online legal service provider from damages incurred from using their documents.
Don’t think the clauses outlined in a DIY will’s fine print can’t happen to you; protect yourself and your family by consulting an in-person attorney at a law firm during your will-making process.
Accepting one’s mortality and the grief stages can be hard to handle, even when surrounded by family. A DIY will, composed in solitude behind the cold glow of a computer screen, can exacerbate these emotions further, making you susceptible to misinterpreting the DIY Will template and making costly mistakes.
Wills composed under an attorney’s guidance, however, provide a grounded, objective source of emotional support and legal expertise, so you can rest easy knowing that your affairs are in good hands.
What happens if a will is declared invalid?
A valid will involves many moving parts, and save for tiny and straightforward estates, DIY wills are unlikely to meet state legal guidelines and the testator’s needs. When a will fails to meet state laws, the will falls into the state’s intestacy probate process, where probate courts identify beneficiaries according to the state’s inheritance succession laws, a process that can create lasting and traumatizing damages to surviving family relationships.
Hiring an Attorney to Draft Your Will: Where to Begin?
End-of-life decisions don’t have to mean going it alone; with over 40 years of collective legal experience, the Germany Law Firm specializes in probate, elder law, and estate planning. Our attorneys provide exceptional service to clients by focusing closely on their unique needs and long-term estate planning goals.
When hiring an attorney from the Germany Law Firm to draft your will, take the first step by arranging a consultation at one of our locations in Denver and Erie, Colorado.