Every so often I come across a DIY will and wonder, why do people do this?
I know that wills look pretty simple. I also know that there are plenty of form wills out there. In fact we often hear the term, “A Simple Will” which might lead the unwary to believe, easy, or easy for anyone to do. I can tell you, it is anything but.
I know, I am a lawyer, and you may already be telling yourself, “Of course she’s going to advocate for lawyer created wills, she is one!” I am, but not for the reasons you may think. In my work, I come across all kinds of wills. Most were created by other lawyers but some homemade. Of those that were homemade ones some were actually pretty good! But, then the others… well, they were not.
When we have dealt with poorly prepared wills after death, those wills have cost estates lots of extra time and money. Usually it was because the decedent didn’t understand the process enough to plan well. Maybe they did not include a small piece of information. Because of that missing piece, we had to do additional legal work, file additional petitions, have hearings and ask judges for decisions. All of that extra work could have been avoided with a properly drafted and executed will.
That’s what happened with Joe. He didn’t want to go to a lawyer so he prepared his own will with the help of a friend who had worked in a law office before. In Joe’s case, he wanted to disinherit someone. When he wrote his will he used conflicting language. The result was many extra attorney and court hours (charged to the estate) to sort through and determine whether Joe’s wishes would be followed. Eventually, a judge, not Joe, decided whether to disinherit that person.
I often tell people, yes, you may save a little money up front by preparing your own will. But, it may cost your beneficiaries that much multiplied over many times, to sort things out. Not only that, but they could end up waiting longer than needed to receive their inheritance. So, it can truly become a “pay later” situation.
The bottom line is there is no perfect form for a will. I believe any estate plan should involve an interview with a knowledgeable attorney who has had experience handling estates. That attorney can prepare the person’s will tailored to their situation and needs saving them and their beneficiaries many dollars as well as sleepless nights.