A man deciding whether to make a do-it-yourself will.There’s no requirement for a lawyer to prepare your will. You know what you want to have happened after you pass away, so why not just write it yourself? While that’s certainly an option for some, and one that plenty of people choose, do-it-yourself Florida wills come with inherent risks.

What Is a Do-It-Yourself Will?

A do-it-yourself will is a will that you create without the help of a legal professional. These are completely legal and valid if done properly. Online you can find templates to download and complete yourself. There are also fill-in-the-blank documents that generate the will for you after inputting your selections. Lastly, some companies offer software programs that require you to enter your information, and then it outputs a will.

There are several pros and cons of do-it-yourself wills.

Pros to Do-It-Yourself Florida Wills

Saves You Time

It takes very little time to create a will online, especially if you have your information ready. On FreeWill, for example, it takes users an average of 17 minutes to complete the necessary forms. With a do-it-yourself will, there’s no need to schedule an appointment, drive to an office, or be face-to-face with anyone. You can make your will from your couch if you want.

Cost-Effective

The price of a do-it-yourself will is typically much less than what lawyers charge to create one for you. With a do-it-yourself will, typically you pay a fee for the template or program, but some companies do offer free documents. Upfront, this is a very cost-efficient option, but remember, you get what you pay for.

Can Be Useful in Emergency Situations

If you’re in a situation where your time or mental state may be dwindling, a do-it-yourself will is a better option than not doing anything. They are easy to access and can provide some direction for your loved ones rather than leave them guessing after you pass.

Cons to Do-It-Yourself Florida Wills

Can Be More Costly in the Long Run

You may think you just need a simple will, particularly if your estate is made up of commonly owned assets (e.g. cars, real estate, bank accounts, etc.). However, without a clearly written will, you open the door for complications. Any ambiguity, mistakes, or improper execution means your family will likely spend a great deal of time and money deciphering your will and wishes. When it comes time to administer your estate, will your do-it-yourself will hold up?

Also, think about any sentimental items you want to pass on. It’s a regular, and truly unfortunate, occurrence for family members to battle in court over personal items that were not clearly passed on through a will. It’s not enough to just tell a family member that you want them to have a piece of jewelry or furniture when you die.

May Not Consider State Laws

Every state has its own requirements for a will to be legally enforceable. In Florida, for example, a will must be:

  • In writing;
  • Made by a competent person (i.e. someone of sound mind and 18 or over);
  • Signed by the testator (the person creating the will); and
  • Signed by and in the presence of at least two witnesses.

If your do-it-yourself will does not satisfy every requirement, it’s invalid. Granted, some companies give instructions on how to make your will valid, such as the witnessing requirements. Ultimately, however, it’s up to you to make sure that gets done, or else the will isn’t enforceable.

Passing away without a valid will has significant repercussions. What happens is the state decides who inherits your assets, under what is known as intestate succession. These laws basically create a will for you and assign a share of your estate to family members who survive you. The first person to inherit is your spouse, then children, then parents, and so on. For blended families, things get even more complicated when it comes to inheritance. Consider how impactful this can be on your family if you don’t properly execute a will. These are life-changing decisions that you probably wouldn’t want to leave up to court.

Not Tailored to Meet Your Needs

No two estates are the same. Everyone has different assets and family dynamics that may require special planning. For example, you may need a more detailed will if you have significant assets and want to minimize estate taxes. In fact, in this case, you need more than just a will to mitigate some of the tax burdens that directly impact how much your heirs inherit.

If you have minor children or other dependents, you need to plan for their care in your will. Otherwise, the state selects the caregiver, if both parents pass away. A do-it-yourself will that you find online may not account for all of this.

Lastly, if you have questions about the effect of the will on your loved ones, there’s no one on the other side of the computer to help you. By working with an estate planning attorney, you can ask questions, strategically transfer assets, and come up with a plan that actually works. An attorney can also help you change your will when life throws its curveballs (and it will).

Contact Us for Help Preparing a Will

At Beller & Bustamante, P.L.,  we want you to feel confident about your will and what happens to your assets and family once you pass away. Our 40 years of combined trial experience has taught us the importance of creating solid, enforceable wills that can stand up against a challenge from anyone. Whether you have very few assets and no children or a significant estate, we can advise you of your best options.

The pillars of our firm are to educate our clients, get timely results, and achieve your goals. To speak with us about your estate planning needs, call us at 904-288-4414 or submit an inquiry online.