Without the knowledge and experience of an estate planning attorney, you don’t know what kind of legal and financial burden you might be creating when you try to save a few dollars with an online will.
Next Avenue’s article, “The Problems With Do-It-Yourself Online Wills,” reported that one DIY estate planning service had typos on its site, and its estate-planning “packages” had the same document labeled with three different names. Even worse, some of these packages were missing a key estate planning document about which very few users would know to ask.
Many DIY estate planning sites have attorneys on staff, but access to specific help for your personal documents is rarely available. If personal advice is offered, it may cost much more to get it.
It is true that many of us would prefer to fill in the blanks in silence, than to have to talk to anyone about our doubts or concerns. However, sometimes it helps—a great deal—to get professional advice.
If you prepare your taxes yourself and they end up incorrect, you and the IRS may end up working things out. However, if you decide to do your estate planning by yourself, you will never know the results of your DIY handiwork. Your loved ones will. and it may not be pleasant.
You need to have customized estate planning documents to avoid court involvement, to decrease administrative issues and to know that the job is done. The four basic estate planning documents are a will, a trust, power of attorney for financial matters and an advance health care directive. If you use any of these on a DIY site, you’ll be offered a fill-in-the-blank approach. However, each state has its own probate code, and the software package you use may have different names for these documents.
Some DIY websites have all of these documents for you, but only if you purchase their higher-end packages. Some offer limited attorney consultation, but it can be just a set of drop-down of questions with pre-written responses, rather than an actual conversation with an attorney.
Having a DIY will might be better than nothing. However, if the will is found to be invalid in court, the family will be left with the same result, as if nothing had been done. Unless you’re an estate planning attorney, you can’t possibly know what is required to create a valid will. Spare your family from the challenges, and work with a qualified estate planning attorney to have a will and estate plan prepared properly.
Reference: Next Avenue (March 29, 2019) “The Problems With Do-It-Yourself Online Wills”