Are Online DIY Wills a Good Idea?
Since March, many of us have been working remotely at least part of the time. The COVID shutdown has created a new workspace reality. We are used to having virtual meetings, access to social media without restriction, and almost unlimited scheduling flexibility. With our computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, we tend to feel we can do it all electronically. At Phelps LaClair, we realize this even extends to do-it-yourself wills. Why is this a bad idea?
The Most Important Document
A will is probably the most important document you will possess in your lifetime. It takes care of decisions you would like to make even after you are not here to make them. What happens to your wealth, your property, and even your body is addressed in your will. With a will, you can make sure your family is taken care of if you are incapacitated or die. Without a will, a probate court will make those decisions for you. They may be contrary to what you would desire, but there is nothing that can change the court’s final decision.
Even though there are online forms that you can fill out and have notarized, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all will. Every family is unique, as is every will. There are too many things that can be overlooked and too many mistakes that can be made in a do-it-yourself will. You need a professional estate planning attorney to design a bulletproof will.
As we mentioned above, dying intestate (without a will) brings probate into the picture. Probate is expensive, time-consuming and often splinters relationships, especially in blended and extended families. It should be avoided at all costs. The money you save going the do-it-yourself route with your will can be eaten up (and exceeded) by litigation if there is a claim against your will. Even a technical error can invalidate a will. Paying a professional estate planner can actually save your heirs a lot of time, money, and heartache.
Knowing the Laws
Every state has its own laws regarding wills. When you are working with a virtual lawyer, you have no idea whether or not they understand the laws of your state. Therefore, you might be drafting an invalid will and never know it. State laws do change from time to time. An out-of-state lawyer may not be up to date on the current laws of your state. That’s why it is best to work with an attorney who is a specialist in your state.
The specific way in which your property is conveyed to your heirs carries important tax considerations. While some property, such as your house, can be passed directly to your heirs without tax penalty, other conditions can come into play. If the house is sold and the money is distributed to beneficiaries, it is subject to taxation. On the other hand, there are many tax-saving strategies that a professional estate planner can use to keep your wealth intact. Do-it-yourself wills do not account for every tax avoidance possibility. Why would you not want to take advantage of a professional estate planner who can save your family and your estate money?
Blended families face many challenges that traditional families do not. The divorce rate of second marriages is about 70% when both spouses have children from a previous marriage. Most do-it-yourself wills do not have provisions for biological versus adopted children. In most states, only biological children will be recognized by a probate court in a contested do-it-yourself will. To make certain that your intentions are clearly stated, you really need the help of an attorney.
Estate Planning Attorneys in the Phoenix Valley
Phelps LaClair has been serving Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale for 40 years. Estate planning is what we do. While online do-it-yourself wills may seem to be expedient, there is no substitute for securing the best future for your family. And that comes only with a custom-designed estate plan. Call us for a free, no-obligation consultation. We will be happy to discuss your estate planning needs. Whether your estate is modest or worth millions, we can give you the best future security and peace of mind now.
Images used under creative commons license (Commerical Use) 08/09/2020 Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash