Recently our firm was hired to probate a Will. It should have been a simple process—a wife died leaving everything to her husband. Unfortunately, the couple had done “do it yourself” Wills off the internet. Because of a number of problems with the way the Will was written and signed, and because of family issues, the Will was not accepted, and we had to go to court to open a judicial probate. This turned a simple probate into an expensive one; costing the husband many times more than the cost of having simple Wills prepared would have been.
Thanks to the internet, access to do it yourself Will and estate planning kits has never been easier. They appear to be easy to follow and simple to do. However, drafting estate planning documents is not as simple as it seems, and there is no substitute for advice from an experienced estate planning lawyer. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t use DIY legal kits.
1. They Can be Confusing
Instructions in a DIY will kit can be confusing to a person who doesn’t have experience or knowledge of business law. This confusion can result in poorly drafted terms, a difficult-to-understand document, and disputes between beneficiaries and executors. An estate planning attorney has the knowledge and experience needed to draft a comprehensive document. (You will probably see the “small print” on many of these sites warning that their documents are not to be considered legal advice, and advising you to consult a lawyer. This is to protect them if your will is not valid and costs your family money after you are gone.)
2. Wills Need to Be Executed and Witnessed in a Particular Way
For a Will to be valid, it needs to be executed and witnessed in a specific way so that it is valid under the law. Most people who use DIY legal kits do not know all the requirements to ensure that the Will is legally valid in your specific state –and many sites are from other states which may have different rules. If there is a dispute that cannot be resolved and the will does not meet all of the requirements under Maryland law, the entire document can be invalidated. Then your family ends up in the situation of having to go to court to have everything settled.
3. Your Estate May Not Be Fully Protected
Most people are drawn to DIY legal kits because of their affordability and convenience. But, like most things, you get what you pay for. These cheap legal kits do not offer comprehensive estate planning, ways to avoid probate or taxes, planning for family businesses or for asset protection from nursing home costs, or advice on how to avoid Will contests by family members. Each family (and family business) is different and often cannot fit into a templated document. An estate planning attorney that understands your needs will draft up documents that thoroughly protect your estate, your family and your business.
4. You Miss Out On Valuable Legal Advice
Even though Google is helpful for many things, it should not be an alternative to a legal advisor. Searching online for answers to your legal questions is a poor practice—you are liable to get conflicting advice, partial advice, or advice that is just wrong. This can end up costing you and your family a lot more than you would have spent on actual legal advice.
Have an Estate Lawyer in MD By Your Side
Whether you’re planning the future of your business or doing estate planning, you can contact DK Rus Law. With over 25 years of experience in estate planning, we will be able to draft comprehensive estate planning documents that will stand protect your family and your business.
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