In an effort to save time and money, some families may be turning to ‘do-it-yourself’ will kits, but there may be flaws to these estate planning forms.
DIY will kits and forms often use ambiguous terminology to ensure they can be used by many, rather than using the specific, legal language that is required in legal documents. This ambiguity can not only cause problems with the legality of a will, but can result in unclear language and instructions within the document, which could ultimately lead to a will contest.
2. State Specificity
Creating a will should be done in accordance with the laws of the state in which the testator, the person creating the will, resides. The laws governing trusts and estates vary from state to state, and they are very specific when it comes to wills. For example, Ohio law requires that a will be signed in the presence of at least two competent witnesses who must not be beneficiaries under the will and must also sign in the presence of each other.
A DIY will kit does not explore the estate planning options available to meet a family’s needs. For instance, a living trust may be more appropriate and offer advantages to certain estates.
Legal terms can be confusing, and should be fully understood by the testator. Will kits often do not provide the explanations and insight that an estate planning attorney is able to provide for these documents. This can lead to misinterpreted instructions and an erroneous document that doesn’t reflect the true wishes of the testator.
5. Improper Distributions
A poorly drafted Will may not dispose of the testator’s entire estate, or even refer to assets which should not be included in the will, such as a retirement account with a named beneficiary. Errors such as these may lead to a will contest or prolong the probate process.
While it certainly is prudent for a person to save time and money, a DIY will form or kit may actually do just the opposite in the long run, as errors and issues may result in a costly and confusing probate process. An estate planning attorney can best advise you on the tools and documents that will meet your family’s needs while ensuring their accuracy and legality.