Most people are aware of the need to have an estate plan in place. Despite this knowledge, about half of all Americans do not have one in place. If you are among them, but have recently decided it is time to do something about that, you have made a wise choice. For most people, estate planning begins with creating and executing a Last Will and Testament. If that is where you plan to begin, you may be thinking about going the “Do-It-Yourself (DIY)” route. After all, in today’s electronic age it is easy enough to find a DIY Will form online. With all the readily available DIY forms online, do you really need a lawyer to create a Will? The simple answer is “yes.”
Last Will and Testament Basics
You undoubtedly already know that your Will can be used to make both specific and general gifts of your estate assets to family members, loved ones, charities, and other beneficiaries. In addition, you will need to appoint someone as the Executor of your estate when you create your Will. If your estate requires formal probate, the duties and responsibilities of your Executor will be numerous and varied and will require a certain amount of knowledge and experienced in both the financial and legal areas. Your choice of Executor can significantly impact how long it takes and how much it costs to probate your estate so choose wisely. Finally, your Will provides you with the only opportunity you will have to formally nominate a Guardian for your minor children should one ever be needed. Your Will is clearly important, making it equally important that it is created and executed with care.
Why Is a Lawyer Necessary When You Create a Will?
Given the ubiquitous nature of legal forms on the internet, going the DIY route with your Last Will and Testament may seem like a great way to save time and money. Unfortunately, the time and money it may save you now could cost your estate, and consequently your loved ones, much more down the road. While there is no legal requirement that you work with an estate planning attorney when you create your Will, there are several important reasons why you should do so anyway, including:
- Deficiencies on form – when you use a DIY legal form of any kind you run a high risk of ending up with a form that has errors or deficiencies. In the case of a Will, many of the DIY forms are out of date, lack state specific requirements, or fail to provide for the required form of execution.
- Fails to dispose of entire estate – another common problem with using DIY Will forms is that they fail to dispose of your entire estate. There is no way a common fill-in-the-blank form can anticipate every situation and every asset a Testator might have. Consequently, things frequently get left out. That, in turn, results in part of your estate being probated as an intestate estate which is something you are trying to avoid.
- No legal advice – a DIY Will form does not provide you with real legal advice. Consequently, you run a high risk of making poor choices and/or blatant errors when you create your Will. There simply is no substitute for the advice of a licensed estate planning attorney.
- Increased risk of challenge – DIY Will are contested far more frequently than a Will created with the assistance of an attorney. If someone does contest your Will, it will bring the probate of your estate to a halt and will ultimately cost your estate a significant amount of money litigating the challenge. In the end, your loved ones will pay the price.
Ultimately, the time and money you think you are saving by not using an attorney when you create your Will is likely to result in your estate spending considerably more time and money in probate after you are gone.
If you have additional questions or concerns about needing a lawyer when you create a Will, contact an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.