Perhaps you have seen pop up ads on your browser. Or heard ads on the radio or streaming service. Should you just go ahead click the link, then make your own Will online? Is a basic, cookie-cutter Will sufficient for your family? There are certainly enough options available these days if you want to try to create your own documents. But should you?
Here are 7 reasons why you may want to consult a professional:
1. A DIY Estate Plan Could Contain Inaccurate, Incomplete or Contradictory Information
If you attempt to create a Will using an online questionnaire, there is a very real possibility that you may select the wrong option or leave out important information that could prevent your Will from accomplishing your goals. If the service allows you to insert custom wording, you may enter provisions that conflict with other provisions in the Will.
You could actually be making things worse than if you did nothing at all.
2. Mistakes in Signing the Documents Render it Worthless
Formal requirements must be met for Wills and other estate planning documents to be legally valid. For example, you actually have to sign it! I have met with clients who thought they had a valid Will they created online, only to find that they never actually signed the Will.
In addition, a Will requires two witnesses. However, only certain people should serve as witnesses. Several years ago, I met with clients who, rather than two witnesses, signed their Will before one notary. That is not sufficient under Ohio law. Another client had his children serve as the witnesses. The online service cannot properly sign your documents; you’re on your own.
Will you have your documents signed properly?
3. Your DIY Estate Plan May Not Account for Changing Life Circumstances
- If you create a Will in which you leave everything to your two children, what happens if one of those children dies before you? Will that child’s share go entirely to his or her sibling—or will it go to the child’s children?
- What if one of your children has creditor issues? Is it okay with you if the money or property the child inherits is vulnerable to claims of the child’s creditors?
- What if your Will states your daughter will receive the family home as her only inheritance, but it is sold shortly before you die? Will she inherit anything?
4. Assets May Be Left Out of your Estate Plan
Many people do not realize that a revocable trust can be a better estate planning tool than a Will for a variety of reasons, like incapacity planning and probate avoidance.
Even if you have created a DIY trust, if you do not “fund it” (i.e., transfer title of your money and property into the name of the trust) it will be ineffective and your loved ones will still have to deal with the probate process to finish what you started. Also, you must continue funding it throughout your life as you acquire more assets.
If it’s not funded, what did you pay for?
5. A DIY Plan May Not be Coordinated with your Other Assets
Clients overlook the fact that not everything passes according to what your Will or Trust says. In general, things like retirement plans and life insurance policies pass outside your Will and go straight to the persons named on the beneficiary form. But, these assets need to be coordinated with your Will or Trust.
Are your retirement plans, life insurance policies and annuities coordinated with your estate plan?
6. It’s Misleading
The problem is that the general public seems to view online services as an adequate substitute for an attorney and so is led to believe that you’re getting pretty much the same thing for a cheaper fee.
One online service asks you a series of questions to answer and then spits out a document. But, they also have the following disclaimer –
“We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal …. options, selection of forms or strategies.”
Clients want peace of mind. That disclaimer does not give me any peace of mind that my online documents are legal and properly crafted.
7. When Will Mistakes Be Discovered?
There are many DIY matters where the consequences, if done wrong, are not that significant.
However, with estate planning, most of the time it’s not until AFTER someone dies that the mistakes are discovered – pretty difficult to make corrections after the person is dead!
How Do You Know If You Did It Right?
What Are the Consequences If you Do It Wrong?
We Can Help
A DIY estate plan can lead to a false sense of security because it may not achieve what you think it does. If your DIY Will is not valid, your property and money will go to your heirs specified by Ohio law—who may not be the people you would have chosen. Banks may not accept a generic power of attorney you found on the internet. Laws affecting your estate plan may change. Trying to go it alone may actually do much more harm than good. We are here to help and give you peace of mind. Call, text, or email to schedule an appointment to get started on your family’s plan.