The digital age has changed every aspect of how we conduct life. That includes estate planning. There are now countless do-it-yourself will creation tools out there, each making the case that this DIY approach is all you actually need.
But as the old saying goes: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
An online will is rarely sufficient
DIY estate planning lures people in because it seems convenient and cost-effective. In very rare, specific cases where someone has a small, simple estate, it might indeed be worth the risk. This means few, low-value assets, no more than one piece of real estate, no complex financial accounts, and an intent to leave everything to a single individual, such as a spouse.
In reality, very few people fit into these types of situations. And even if these criteria are met, writing a will on your own comes with legitimate risks that can upend your wishes. That includes:
- The online tool or software not accounting for state laws
- Unclear language or simple mistakes
- Insufficient witnesses
- Incoherent conditional payout terms
- Guardian designations
- Conflicting beneficiary designations
These issues, and others, can result in situations with enduring consequences for family and loved ones.
Signs you should speak with an attorney
A DIY estate planning tool isn’t a good option for most people. So what are some signs you might benefit greatly from working with an attorney on the creation of a will?
- You have a large estate with valuable assets
- You want to reduce any potential probate impact
- You are worried about the potential tax burden
- You have a child with a medical condition or special needs that will require long-term care
- You own multiple pieces of real estate
- You have a blended family
- You want to set up a charitable trust
- You have questions to which you cannot find answers
This list does not cover every circumstance in which it may be smart to consult with a lawyer. Everybody’s situation is unique, and ensuring the estate plan thoroughly covers all the bases requires personal attention from a knowledgeable resource.
To use another trusted saying: It’s better to be safe than sorry.