The Dangers of DIY Wills
Many websites and companies have started offering do-it-yourself legal services, especially for writing your will. While it is certainly cheaper to use a DIY will instead of a professional attorney, a simple mistake can lead to paying a much higher price.
Drawing up a will is one essential component in estate planning, ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes upon your passing. However, many fail to prepare one because of the cost. Understanding this, many large companies have started to offer online services that allow you to prepare a will without the help of an attorney. Because this document can seem basic, many believe it is ok to prepare it themselves. However, there are many pitfalls to preparing your will by yourself.
DIY Will Issues
The initial cost savings make these products very attractive. Paying less for something always seems like a no-brainer. However, there are several issues that can arise when attempting to enact a legal proceeding yourself.
For anyone with complicated financial assets, it is imperative to have your will prepared by an attorney. The rules and regulations governing financial products such as retirement accounts, investments and others can be violated if not handled properly, which can in turn nullify your will.
Even if you have very basic assets, such as a checking and savings account, you may still have questions about the way to distribute your assets. Most of the DIY companies have attorney’s on staff, but some regulations are enforced at the state level, others at the federal. You most certainly won’t know the attorney’s qualifications and expertise when using a digital product to draw up your will.
What Is Good Estate Planning?
Expressing your wishes for your legacy and assets is what estate planning is truly about. Most of the basic estate planning documents are offered through DIY services. These include wills, trusts, advanced medical directives and power of attorney.
While all of these are typically offered by the better DIY companies, you will be taking a fill-in-the-blank approach. For a basic document, this may be acceptable. But if you have specific wishes that are important to you, then this cookie-cutter method will not work for you.
Likewise, every state has its very own probate code. Probate is the body of law that governs estate planning and implementation. The product you use may identify different documents by different names, confusing the process.
For example, some states refer to the advanced medical directive as a ‘living will’. Imagine if you didn’t recognize the document name and didn’t complete the form, believing you didn’t need it.
The bottom line for DIY wills is what happens to your loved ones once you pass. You may inadvertently leave them with a financial or legal hardship in addition to the emotional toll your loss will take.
Many of the DIY will providers offer one of the documents listed above for a flat price. However, if you want to include other documents in your plan, then you must purchase their upgrade packages, which can cost as much as using a professional.
Some companies provide very little in the way of support or assistance from licensed attorneys. Much of the support offered is of the technical variety. So you might have a question about the legalities of the document you are completing, but the company can only offer you support for their software, causing you to either incorrectly complete the form, or have to hire an attorney anyway.
These companies are also more or less forthcoming about the costs of their products. For example, one such company offers what they call a “Complete Estate Plan” for $69. While this sounds like an excellent price, the $69 plan only includes your will. Including the other documents will cost you $400. Hardly a bargain.
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