There are plenty of DIY estate planning software, kits and templates around that allow people to create legal documents like Wills from the comfort of their own home. This might sound like a tempting idea—you don’t have to go anywhere and you can save some money on attorney fees, right? Unfortunately, it may not be that simple. In fact, you risk losing much more money than you’ve saved by not using an experienced Maryland attorney to write your Will. Below are a few reasons why you should have your will put together and reviewed by a qualified attorney.
Templates Are Not For Everyone
Last Will and Testament templates can certainly be customized, but you need to understand the legal terminology and nuances to do this successfully. Also, most Will templates are very basic and may not fit your particular circumstances, or may follow the laws of a different state. Whether your house is your only asset or you have a substantial estate, you don’t want to trust a “one-size fits all” template to protect your assets for your family.
Not Everything You See Online is True
If you are going to rely on the legal advice you find on the internet, beware that there is a lot of incorrect or outdated information out there. Simply looking up “what to include in a will” will bring up hundreds of different websites with contradicting tips. For example, many websites will tell you that you should list the phone numbers and addresses of your beneficiaries. This is not only unnecessary, but can be a bad idea—after your death, that Will is a public document. Other websites will tell you that you should store your Will in your safe deposit box—another bad idea, as the bank may not allow your Personal Representative to get the Will after your death without a court order.
Don’t Just Write a Will, Plan Your Estate!
A Will is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about what happens to your assets after you pass away. However, a Will is just one step in the estate planning process, and it might not be the best option for passing your assets to the people you care about. Have you considered a Trust? Maybe certain property should (or should not) be gifted during your lifetime rather than willed? The use of trusts, beneficiary designations, lifetime gifts, insurance, and other planning techniques can help you avoid estate taxes and probate. These are some of the things that an experienced estate planning attorney can help you with. Good estate planning advice can save you thousands of dollars in estate taxes or probate costs, as well as help protect your assets from creditors.
What if You Already Have a DIY Will?
If you already used do it yourself software or one of the online legal substitute websites to write your Will, you may want to have that Will reviewed by a Maryland attorney. Many of these legal software kits were written by non-lawyers or under the laws of a different state—you will want to make sure that your Will follows Maryland laws. An experienced estate planning lawyer will help you make sure that your Will is valid and is the best Will for you, as well as offer you some advice on reducing or eliminating estate taxes and probate.
Feel free to give us a call or contact us online if you have any questions!