You have been told by well-meaning family members and friends how important it is for you to have a least a basic Last Will and Testament in place. Despite this, you have yet to create and execute your Will. Maybe it’s because you haven’t had the time to see an attorney and get started, or possibly because you don’t want to spend the money on an attorney – or maybe a combination of both. Given how easy it is in the electronic age to find legal forms online, you may be wondering why you can’t just use a DIY Will form you found online? The most important reason is that, in the end, your loved ones would likely end up spending much more time and money trying to probate your estate as a result of the DIY Will form you found that you thought saved you so much time and money. Among the many reasons why using a DIY Will is a bad idea are the following:
- Lack of state specificity — DIY Wills are often not state specific and frequently include outdated laws or language. Stop and think about this. The entire purpose of a DIY legal document of any sort is to appeal to as many people as possible. That typically means that the DIY form you will get in California is the same as the one you will get in New York, despite the fact that state laws govern most issues relating to wills, trusts, and estates. By the same token, laws relating to wills, trusts, and estates, change frequently. Often, a change in the law warrants a change in the language used in a Last Will and Testament or a change in decisions made in your Will. Those DIY Will forms you find online or at the stationary store, however, do not change once they have been published. So that DIY Will you found online might, or might not, even be considered valid in the state where your estate ends up being probated. Having a Will that is not valid is actually worse than having no Will at all in most cases.
- Legal advice is unavailable — You cannot get advice about decisions you make in your Will using a DIY Will. Only a licensed attorney can give legal advice. Period. No exceptions available. That means you are on your own when filling out your DIY Will – the most important legal document you will likely ever execute. Would you try to perform surgery without the benefit of a doctor’s advice? Would you try to repair your vehicle without being able to ask a mechanic for advice? Why then, would you try and create an important legal document without the ability to ask a lawyer for advice?
- Improper execution – when it comes to validating a Will, execution is everything. An improperly executed Will is an invalid Will. Do you know what your state requires for a Will to be considered properly executed? The courts are inundated with Will contests alleging a lack of proper execution. Most of those challenges could have been avoided altogether had the Will in question been executed at an attorney’s office.
- Simplistic and inflexible — DIY forms are too simple and lack flexibility. At best, a DIY Will might suffice for a single, childless, individual who has nothing more than personal property to gift. The minute you have something complicated, like minor children or a retirement plan, a DIY form can no longer handle it – or worse, tries to handle it and botches it horribly.
- The unknown – without an attorney to give you advice, there is no way to know if what you created will work as planned. This alone should be reason enough not to use a DIY Will. Your Last Will and Testament isn’t tested in a court of law until after you are gone. Therefore, unless you have an attorney prepare it, you have no way of knowing if it will work or not, meaning you are willing to leave your loved ones to deal with the fallout if it doesn’t work – and there will be fallout. Ultimately, you will have put your loved ones through considerably more time, and cost them considerably more money, than you saved by using a DIY Will.
If you have additional questions about creating a Last Will and Testament in the State of North Carolina contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.