Insight on Estate Planning - February/March 2019: Estate Planning Red Flag: You’re using an online form to draft your will

Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.
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Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.

Today, you can do practically anything online that used to require face-to-face contact. For example, you can buy clothing, do your banking or even download a form to write your own will. But a “do-it-yourself” will is a risky proposition, especially if you have considerable wealth.

Even in days of yore, some people famously drafted their own wills, often with disastrous results. A will that isn’t executed properly under state law isn’t legally binding. Therefore, your assets may be divided according to state intestacy laws, regardless of your intentions. And, if you have young children, a court may appoint their legal guardian.

Despite what you might read online, there’s no single prototype for wills. It’s complicated because the laws can vary widely from state to state. For instance, some states recognize oral wills, while others don’t. Or a state may require two or even three attesting witnesses.

One common mistake of do-it-yourself wills is leaving out important provisions that can lead to challenges in the future. Case in point: If the will doesn’t include a residuary clause addressing amounts that are “left over” after estate debts and tax payments have been settled, an unspecified party could walk away with a large sum of money. It might even be a family member you had wanted to “disinherit.”

Bottom line: There is simply too much risk by taking shortcuts when it comes to drafting your will. Have your will drafted and executed by a reputable attorney.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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