There are some things in life that are just worth the extra cost — a quality steak, a comfortable mattress, the right pair of running shoes and a good haircut to name a few. Add a quality will, and you should be set for life.
Though we’ve written about this topic before, it’s worth a 2017 update, because while software might improve, supposedly “free” online will creators can still end up costing you. Though professionally created wills are costlier up front, it’s important to remember that DIY wills are not created with you or your personal situation in mind. They are created for a mass audience and assume users don’t have personal quirks or complications in their living and financial situations. As such, they can end up causing numerous problems for your loved ones once you pass away.
What are some of the problems?
Though wills are meant to give the living peace of mind, if you’ve used an online will generator, the experience can be less than peaceful when the time comes for your loved ones to consult it. Since many DIY wills are made using a questionnaire, it’s possible you skipped questions you shouldn’t have, gave incomplete or inaccurate responses or did not fully understand what certain questions were asking.
As a result, your will may contain inconsistencies, unnecessary terms, omissions or even contradictions. This can make part of — or even all of — your will invalid. Moreover, DIY wills are meant to be generic, so particularly non-reputable websites may not account for specific state laws. Again, this can lead to an invalid will. If there are any issues in your will, it could be contested in court, becoming costlier than a will created correctly the first time with an estate planning attorney.
The generic nature of DIY wills could also cause problems beyond not conforming to your state’s laws. As we age and start thinking more seriously about wills, our lives are often complex. We may be on a second or third marriage, have multiple children and grandchildren and possess several real estate holdings. An attorney can design a will tailored to your specific needs and circumstances, and they’re available to help you revise your will as your life continues to change.
With a DIY will, you’re done after hitting “print” and “save,” with updates to the form something that must be done at your discretion. An attorney, however, is with your family even after you’re gone. They will act as your advocate and serve as a point of contact for loved ones in regards to your wishes and desires. It’s also important to keep in mind that you’re not just paying for the form itself when you visit an attorney, but for their expert advice, time and years of experience. With an attorney you will also learn about important components of an estate plan that pass outside of the terms of your will, like beneficiary designations and jointly held assets.
As disclaimers on will generator websites will tell you, the websites are not law firms and are not meant to substitute attorneys; they’re also not meant to provide legal advice or representation. Even these websites know that a computer can’t always substitute a human, and especially not an experienced estate planning attorney.
When you’re ready to create your will, or if you’d like to discuss your existing will, please give me a call. Caplan and Earnest has helped Coloradoans create their wills for decades, and we’d be more than happy to help you.
Kristofer Simms is an estate planning attorney at Caplan and Earnest. He can be reached at 303-443-8010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.