For many people, downloading a do-it-yourself will can seem like an attractive option. It costs less than hiring an attorney, it is easier than hiring an attorney, and it can be done in a matter of hours – if not minutes. You don’t have to take time off from work to go to an attorney’s office, you don’t have to tell some stranger about your finances and family dynamics, and you don’t have to wonder if your attorney is making recommendations that are in your best interests or that simply pad the bill. In short, why wouldn’t you prepare your will online?
While these are all common considerations, they are also all founded in common misconceptions. They also lack an appreciation for the significant limitations of buying a will “template” on the internet. In reality, the risks of relying on a form you buy online far outweigh the minor inconveniences of working with an estate planning attorney. In addition, the costs of relying on inappropriate or inadequate estate planning documents can far exceed the costs of working with an attorney.
7 Reasons Not to Buy a Will Online
1. Form Wills Are Intended for Use by Anyone, Which Means That They Are Not Designed to Meet Anyone’s Specific Needs.
When you buy a will on the internet, what you are buying is a form document that is intended to be used by anyone. Even if you choose a website where you supply your information and then it presents you with a “customized” estate plan, all you are really getting is a form with your name and other basic information pre-filled in. However, your estate plan needs to reflect your final wishes, and it should be just as unique as you. Forms that are designed for everyone rarely work for anyone, and your online will is almost certain not able to fully address your estate planning needs.
2. A Will Might Not Be the Right (or Only) Tool for Your Estate Planning Needs.
By the same token, a will is just one of numerous different types of estate planning documents. While a will is a fundamental estate planning tool, it is just one component of a modern estate plan. Along with a will, many people will find it advantageous to prepare a revocable trust (also known as a “living trust”). And preparing an appropriate power of attorney, medical directives, and appointment of health care surrogates is essential to avoiding difficult and uncomfortable challenges when it comes to emergency medical treatment and end-of-life care.
3. There Are Numerous Factors to Consider When Preparing an Estate Plan, Many of Which Are Not Obvious.
Who should you appoint as your personal representative? How should you decide? How do you appoint a “backup” personal representative, and what if he or she is unavailable (or unwilling) to serve? What if one of your named beneficiaries predeceases you? Could you avoid unnecessary tax liability with strategic estate planning? What happens to your social media accounts and photos you have stored in the cloud? These are just some of the questions that are likely to go overlooked if you prepare an online will.
4. Your Will Needs to Work with Your Other Estate Planning Tools, Some of Which You May Have in Place Already (Even If You Don’t Know It).
If you have life insurance, a retirement account, or even a bank account, you have likely done some estate planning already – even if you don’t know it. When you buy life insurance or open an account, you are generally required to name a beneficiary. If you already have named beneficiaries for some of your assets, you need to make sure that your will does not create conflicts with your existing beneficiary designations.
5. Your Will Needs to Comply with State Law in Order to Be Legally Enforceable.
Wills (and all estate planning documents) are governed by state law. If a form has not been structured specifically to comply with Florida law (or if it has not been recently updated), then it may not be legally enforceable. If your will is not legally enforceable (or if you have overlooked key issues, resulting in your will being incomplete), then your estate will be administered, not according to your final wishes, but according to Florida’s probate laws and the law of intestate succession.
6. When it Comes to Estate Planning, Mistakes and Oversights Can Have Drastic Consequences.
When preparing your estate plan, you need to be as thorough as possible. This means not only identifying all of your assets (and specifying how and to whom they should be distributed), but also addressing all of the non-property-related aspects of the estate planning process. From designating contingent beneficiaries to planning for incapacity, when you are done with your estate plan, you need to feel confident that it comprehensively addresses all of the issues that matter to you and your family.
Mistakes and oversights can also be extremely costly, and these costs can far outweigh any money you save by downloading a form will online. Not only can mistakes and oversights lead to unnecessary probate expenses, but they can also lead to contentious (and costly) disputes between family members and other beneficiaries.
7. Working with an Estate Planning Attorney Does Not Have to Be Difficult or Expensive.
Not only is working with an experienced attorney essential to developing a comprehensive and legally-enforceable estate plan, but it also does not have to be nearly as difficult or expensive as most people think. With the right law firm, you can work closely with an attorney who will get to know you personally, and who will work with you to efficiently prepare a plan that comprehensively reflects your individual goals and needs.
Speak with an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer in Confidence
At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we provide personalized and cost-efficient estate planning services for clients throughout the Jacksonville, FL, area. We can help you understand your estate planning needs, and we can work with you to prepare a comprehensive and custom-tailored estate plan. To get started with a confidential initial consultation, please call 904-288-4414 or inquire online today.