I love HGTV and all of the fixit, building and home renovation shows. It's intriguing to watch a team go into a home and completely rehab a property into something that is esthetically pleasing and fetches a good price on the market. The problem is in life comparisons. I usually watch these shows and discuss how it would be impossible to renovate in the time allotted, with the budget stated and work through the many issues that arise while in the process.
While there are areas of my life that I consider myself to be a "do it yourselfer," there are plenty of areas I find it much more beneficial to hire a professional. When you are painting a room, if things don't go the way you planned, you can call up a painter and have them fix the error, much like the time your best friend gave you a perm and the hairdresser had to fix it. The problem with this theory in contracts, Wills and Estate Planning is that once you need it, it's too late to do it right.
If you have considered writing your own will...
While you can draft a will on your own, there are plenty of reasons why you may not want to go that route. Most people do it to save money, but they may overlook or forget to take care of some important details – details that could eventually cost them much more than the amount they could save.
Some of the biggest mistakes include:
Ignoring state law differences. Will kits and online wills may not always take state laws regarding the administration of probate into account. An estate planning attorney can inform you of these state laws; a will kit or website may not.
Not revoking an earlier will. Many wills contain boilerplate language that automatically revokes any preceding will. If you are writing your will totally on your own (some people still do), you may not realize the necessity of such a clause.
Assumptions. If you will property to an heir, what happens if you outlive that heir? What if you will an asset to a friend or relative today and that asset is gone when your will is executed someday? These are important things to contemplate; things that most people who write their own wills have not considered.
Vagueness. Sometimes executors are not given enough power by the language of a will. Sometimes a home will be left to a spouse, but with no one assigned to pay for upkeep of the home during the rest of that widow’s lifetime. Alternate executors are sometimes omitted from wills, and names of nonprofit groups can easily be misstated or misspelled, inviting complication and possible dispute of charitable intent.
Forgetting to sign the will. It's pretty self explanatory. If it's not signed, it's not valid. No matter how much work goes into drafting the perfect will, if it's not signed, it's not valid.
No one knowing where the will is kept. Have you heard the horror stories about families who don't know their parents wishes because they don't know where a copy of the will was kept and they don't have an attorney to reference? Most attorneys will keep a copy of their clients will on file for reference upon their passing. This is especially helpful if you don't want to share the details of the will. You can give your kids (beneficiaries) a business card for your attorney, instead of handing them a copy of your will.
Was it witnessed and notarized? Much like signing the will, the intentions of the person drafting the will can't be executed if it's not validated. An attorney will make certain that there are the proper amount of witnesses, having a sound mind, not under the influence, having sight and are over eighteen years old. Additionally, they will make certain the witnesses are not beneficiaries and the document is properly notarized.
Are you reducing your loved ones tax burden? An attorney can work cohesively with your financial advisor and tax professional to make certain that the way assets are transferred will preserve your estate and eliminate unnecessary taxation. This is a critical part of developing a will that many people do not consider, resulting in the loss of up to 50% of transferred assets.
Third party designees. Other things that attorneys will consider and discuss with you are: Executors of your estate, guardianship of children/grandchildren, financial power of attorney, living wills and healthcare power of attorney.
A Will goes into probate upon your death. If your intentions were different that what was written, initiated or updated, it won't matter. We are happy to refer you to an attorney who can help you by drafting a will that executes your intentions legally.