Do-it-yourself wills are becoming more prevalent as legal services can now be accessed easily online. For better or for worse, more and more people are turning to online services to meet their legal needs, maybe even you.
Here is what you need to know before you decide to create your own will using an online service, form book, or even a cheap lawyer for that matter.
While these online companies are making legal services more accessible, they are also doing their customers a disservice as evidenced in the recent case of In re: Estate of Aldrich heard in a Florida appeals court.
Ms. Aldrich created her will using a downloaded template from E-Z Legal Forms without the advice and guidance of an estate planning lawyer. It appears that she wished to leave specific assets to her sister, and then to her brother if her sister died before her. Her sister did die, after which Ms. Aldrich did not properly update her will.
The assets named in the will went to Ms. Aldrich’s brother, but the template she used did not include a residuary clause, which establishes where unnamed assets should go. There was no way for Ms. Aldrich to know that this was missing from the Will because she was not a lawyer, nor was she truly educated about such matters. Most people are not, nor should they be.
As a result and without a residuary clause, the unnamed assets Ms. Aldrich acquired after the creation of the will passed under Florida’s intestacy laws and into the hands of her nieces, children of another pre-deceased sibling, instead of to her brother as she seemed to have wanted.
This, of course, after a long, expensive, and unnecessary court battle between the nieces and Ms. Aldrich’s brother.
No legal advice or support
Services like E-Z Legal Forms do not provide personal legal advice or ongoing legal support. Had Ms. Aldrich worked with an estate planning lawyer to craft—and then update—her planning, she would have left her brother an inheritance of love, rather than a nightmare of wasted time, wasted money, and bad blood among family members.
This is an important lesson to learn because people too often create their D.I.Y. will without having an estate planning lawyer review it to ensure it is valid and not missing anything important. Then they forget to update it as loved ones pass on and new assets are acquired. In the end, their wishes are not honored because they were not clearly defined, leaving the matter in the hands of the probate court. Forcing family members into a complicated, expensive, and long court process. This is often the result of well-meaning people who take short cuts with their estate planning. I am sure this is not what they had intended for their loved ones and it is a very sad outcome indeed.
Taking short cuts, whether it be with an online service or cut-rate lawyer, to save money is a recipe for disaster and will likely cost you far more in the end. And, I am not talking just about money. The real cost will be the emotional toll it takes on your family when they have to hire a lawyer to help them fix the mess that is left behind when you are gone. But, by then the damage is done and it is too late to undo what has already been done.
Estate planning is one of those areas in your life where good enough is not good enough. If you are serious about protecting your family and your assets, you may as well do it right the first time. The money you spend upfront for an estate plan that will keep your family out of court will be far less than what it will cost if your family must go to court because your plan did not work as you thought it would. You and your family have too much to lose to gamble with cheap alternatives.
If you are ready to develop a sound estate plan that will leave a legacy of true love instead of hardship, start by sitting down with us. At the Law Office of Keoni Souza, we can help you with your legal planning needs. Our planning process begins with a Family Wealth Planning Session. It is a strategy and planning session that guides you to protect and preserve what matters most. Before the session, we will send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete. It will get you thinking about what you own, what is most important to you, and what you can do to ensure your family is taken care of.
Our Family Wealth Planning Session is incredibly valuable because it will get you more financially organized than you have ever been before and will help you to make the best decisions for you and your loved ones. So, even if you never do any planning with us, you will not leave our office empty-handed.
This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
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