DIY WILLS AND TRUSTS – Read This Before You Proceed
Among the types of estate planning, a last will and testament are among the most common. We write in detail about these in a related post, entitled: What is a will, and do I need one? We will briefly summarize it here.
A will is a legal tool that helps you communicate your wishes as to how your assets will be disbursed upon death. It helps you to state the recipient of your assets, also called your beneficiary designation.
It also determines your estate executor, makes provisions for certain probable life situations, and ensures that your last wishes are recorded for the court during the probate process. It’s an important legal document.
This is why it’s so alarming that 2 out of 3 people still do not have a will despite recognizing the value. Why?
Psychological factors come into the mix because of how strenuous it can be to face the fact that you’ll pass away someday. Many people simply do not want to think about this fact.
Trusts vs Wills
Another common tool in proper estate planning is a trust. There are different types, with the revocable living trust being a common choice. (You can read more about them here.)
They serve a multi-purpose role, but a primary area of motivation for many people is avoiding probate court. This is because the trust owns each asset, and the appointed successor trustee takes care of distribution and administration for the deceased grantor.
While simple in nature, the details inside a trust are of utmost importance. This is one reason why DIY trusts over the Internet is a cause for concern for an experienced estate planning attorney.
The Rise of Online Wills and DIY Estate Planning Documents
Many people put off making an appointment with a law firm due to their hectic lifestyles. Busyness and the perceived inconvenience is part of the problem. This has helped give rise to the DIY estate plan or “online wills” that we now see emerging. Today, some believe that turning to the idea of a DIY will kit on the Internet will provide them with added convenience.
To be sure, there is short-term convenience to be found with a quick online document at a low price. But is an online will a suitable replacement for legal advice, and a solid choice given the long-term implications? Many won’t know because it will be too late to witness the consequences of incomplete planning. Additionally, if you lose your copy and the site goes out of business, how will you recover it?
Do-it-Yourself Will Kit – Do DIY Wills and Trusts Make Sense?
In a bid to simplify the process and help you write your own will, many vendors claim to offer the best “do it yourself” will kit.
What you get is a DIY will template, a batch of online forms, or software such as Quicken Willmaker.
These documents are sold as a cheaper way to help you create a will rather than hiring an estate planning lawyer to help you.
Taking it further, some even offer to craft an advance health care directive. This will dictate health care decisions which impact your life when you are unable to do so.
Would we recommend DIY will kits for your last will and testament, or as a replacement for an informed personal representative in these vitally important matters? Not at all.
Just about anything can go wrong when using a free or inexpensive do-it-yourself will and trust software or template. The risks range from getting the document wording wrong, to mishandling the intricacies of legal formalities involved in signing and witnessing. Lots of things are involved to make a will valid. The details matter, as some people find out later.
At Thomas-Walters, PLLC, we do not encourage our clients to use will-in-a-box products. Of course, most attorney’s don’t agree with people doing it themselves. But this is not about the fear of losing our clients to these products. In fact, many people come to us for help because of their confusion about different aspects of DIY will programs. Avoiding these is for your own good, and the well-being of your family.
Drafting a will is a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Lots of important considerations and moving parts are involved. You have to consider different scenarios that software may not ask you, which is why this plug-and-play procedure will not cut it.
Such DIY will documents and templates only provide a false sense of protection. They are also inflexible when you need to make small changes to your estate plan.
Hiring an Estate Planning Lawyer vs. “The Best” DIY Will Software
If you’re still debating about hiring an estate planning lawyer or whether to go with a do it yourself will kit, that’s alright. We are here to help you make a sound decision. Here’s why you should hire an estate planning lawyer to prepare your will or trust:
An Expert’s Attention to detail
When your pet develops some health issues, do you treat them yourself? No, you go to the vet. And when you personally experience a health problem that’s not immediately apparent, you make an appointment with the doctor. We often recognize where our personal expertise begins and ends with other important matters. Getting in touch with experts to get opinions and advice about things that we don’t handle every day is the norm.
So, why should you treat writing your will any differently?
An estate planning attorney is trained in the important, detail-oriented nuances of each estate planning document. When writing your last will and testament, the small details matter.
Your attorney will be able to understand your unique family situation, and design a plan to facilitate your wishes and desires. They will also cross-check and help you cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s.
Another important factor is helping you consider issues that you might miss on your own. Although DIY will kits are programmed to ask you some questions, they are limited and not very detailed.
Personalized, Custom Solutions
When you get in touch with an estate planning attorney at Thomas-Walters, you benefit from a 1-to-1 consultation. This is designed to help you detect and avoid common mistakes that are usually associated with DIY wills and trusts.
Some websites offer DIY software but still require a fee to have an experienced attorney review whatever you come up with. This might seem like a good move but may not be the best.
Here’s why: The estate laws are different in most states and you can’t guarantee that your will shall be reviewed by an attorney certified in your state.
They may also be unaware of any new laws because estate laws change regularly. The best option is to consult a board-certified attorney in person (and in your state) who will get to know you and help you craft the best will.
Lifetime Service: It’s affordable
Although you’ll likely spend less on DIY wills and trusts at the onset, your loved ones could pay the full price later if you leave behind a will full of mistakes or omissions.
Your will must be precise, and your estate plan must be clear-cut to avoid having any gray areas left open for misinterpretation. It also protects your family from pain and legal actions in the future. With the help of a lawyer, you’ll be the one deciding what happens, not a judge.
One area of expense that many overlook is future updates and changes. Is life static, or dynamic? The plans you draft today will need updates later, and this is where our lifetime lawyer program comes into play.
Our Texas clients enjoy future updates to their wills and trusts at no additional cost. This makes the lifetime value of expert help much more affordable than comparing it to a one-time software fee.
It’s important you take these factors into consideration when evaluating the “true cost” as well.
Avoid DIY Wills – Let us Help You Create Your Will or Trust
When you have a legal expert working on your behalf, guiding how to create and finalize your will or trust, you leave nothing to chance. This is just as important for new parents as well as for legacy planning at later stages in life.
Don’t gamble with your last will and testament by turning to online DIY solutions. Take the right steps by contacting Thomas-Walters, PLLC Estate Planning to help you create a will that truly reflects your wishes.
Book a free initial consultation with us today to explore if we are the right fit.
Schedule a FREE consultation to discuss your situation today, here:
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