We are a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ society. We’re going to try to save money and fix that leaky faucet ourselves. Sometimes that works, but other times it causes more problems. One area that needs to be left to the experts is estate planning.
The biggest concern with online legal services relates to documents that may not be prepared properly. Often, the language could be wrong, or an essential part of the document is missing. There also may be a conflict between some provisions, or the document is not executed with the required formality and witnesses.
Grammar and word usages in a will are also important. The misuse of a single word or misplaced comma can change who inherits property or who will serve as executor. You may intend one thing but actually be stating something entirely different due to improper language.
Beyond issues with actual documents, another big problem is the failure to see the bigger legal picture. Even a perfectly drafted and executed document may be useless and not accomplish your intent if you fail to consider all other laws and circumstances that can override or defeat the terms of your will.
Just because your will states something does not mean that it will happen like you intend. For example, if you have added one of your children on your bank account as a joint owner to help write checks, the entire account will pass only to that one child upon your death – regardless of a clear direction in your will that it should be split equally among all of your children.
In addition, if you don’t know the tax laws governing the transfer of IRAs, a seemingly straightforward provision in your will or other planning document could create a big tax bill for your beneficiaries. It can all be avoided with proper legal oversight.
The primary lesson here is that the DIY mindset can be especially detrimental in preparing legal documents for estate planning and other areas of the law. It’s not worth the risk. Use a trained attorney to help navigate legal issues and ensure you receive your intended result.