Your last will and testament is your final gift to your family and other loved ones. Today, it seems as if the inexpensive do-it-yourself wills are all the rage, but the money you save now may end up costing your beneficiaries in the long run.
Historically, probate lawyers would draw up your final wishes for the disbursement of your estate, but with the advent of the internet, many law firms have taken to offering forms online to fill out on your own. While this may seem like a convenient way to prepare for your loved ones’ care after you pass, there are some pitfalls that you should watch out for.
The Will May Not Be Valid
As with any legal contract, what is written is what matters to the courts. If you inadvertently agree to one thing, or fail to include another, then it’s binding, no matter what your intentions were.
The same is true of last wills. If you make any mistakes or errors, then there is nothing the courts can do once you submit it. This includes problems that can arise from misspelled names, addresses, or other personal information pertaining to your potential beneficiaries. In this case, they may not receive some or all of the property or possessions that you wished them to, leading to stress and aggravation.
What’s worse, if you fail to sign the document properly, or leave out important information, the will could be invalid all together. If this happens, your beneficiaries will have to spend massive amounts of money in court trying to fight the ruling, with no promise that it will even work. Your entire estate could be auctioned off rather than given to those whom you intended to have it.
The Savings May Not be Worth the Cost
So you do a little research and see that the cost of a Do It Yourself will is less than what you would have to pay a lawyer to get it finished. Why not save some money and handle it yourself?
This can be a very expensive mistake for your loved ones. Even setting mistakes like above aside, a poorly written will can cost your beneficiaries dearly. DIY wills can be like form letters: standard fill-in-the-blank documents that you just have to write the names, dates and benefits into. The problem is that a last will and testament is not a one-size-fits-all type of document. There are federal, state and local laws to consider regarding taxes which may different from one place to another. If you get any of this information wrong, your beneficiaries could owe a lot more in taxes or forfeit their inheritance all together.
Find the Right Lawyer
Probate lawyers specialize in last wills and are well versed in the current laws that exist in your area. If you want to play it safe and provide for your loved ones, a probate lawyer will be able to answer all of your questions. Last will and testaments can be tough to do yourself, so don’t take the risk. You can learn more about probate law from IRB Law.
Make sure, first and foremost, that the lawyer you choose specializes in probate law. This is a field that is completely different from, say, personal injury, so you need to make sure your lawyer is up to date on current laws and has good references. Also, chose a lawyer that is local. Laws vary from state to state, so you don’t what a lawyer from somewhere else to make a mistake regarding your local laws.
Don’t hire a family member or friend: the potential problems far outweigh the potential benefits!
If you think you have found a lawyer you like, do not sign anything yet. At this point, you need to read any contract the lawyer hands you so you know exactly what you are signing. Fee agreements and other payment concerns can have negative consequences for you or your loved ones if you don’t fully understand what you are signing. You can even have a different lawyer read the contract for you to guide you.
Before you go to your lawyer, make a checklist of everything you think you will need to mention in your will, from monetary holdings to stocks to property. This will be a great start in giving the lawyer a good sense of what they need to do they can advise you if you are missing items.
Yvonne Marcum is about to become a law student and has plans to enter into family law after she completes her studies. Hungry for knowledge, and already with a good understanding of the law, Yvonne writes articles to help people get their affairs in order and keep on the right side of the law.