You have heard the warnings and recommendations from friends, professionals, maybe even your own children. You need an estate plan and the sooner the better. Perhaps the recent deaths of celebrities who died suddenly and left no protection for their legacies prompted you to consider the benefits of establishing a plan for when you pass away.
As difficult a decision as it was to make, the next step in the process may seem overwhelming: meeting with an attorney and determining the best estate planning tools for your circumstances. In fact, you may be considering the easier option of writing your own will using an online program or commercial software. How do those compare to the results you will attain with the help of an attorney?
The drawbacks of do-it-yourself wills
You have probably seen TV shows where someone on his or her death bed scribbles a last will and testament. While this makes for dramatic viewing, it is also risky. If your goal is to provide security for your loved ones and to protect your assets, you will certainly want to put more thought into it.
However, using an online or software will-making kit may be equally as risky. Besides the fact that your estate is unique and may have elements which a cookie-cutter will may not accommodate, there are other valid reasons for skipping the software and meeting face-to face with an experienced attorney, including these:
- Generic online forms are watered down so they can encompass the most general laws of every state.
- Even in its most generic form, a do-it-yourself will may not comply with the laws in New York, including tax ramifications, formalities required to make a will valid, disinheritance and other issues.
- Estate planning laws in each state change frequently, and an attorney whose job it is to know those laws would be better prepared to recognize if your will complies with the most recent changes.
- A computerized will may not be able to meet your unique needs, even for factors as common as stepfamilies.
- Most do-it-yourself will instructions include a prompt to contact an attorney for legal advice about your estate plan.
An online or software-generated will is probably cheaper than one you will create with the guidance of an attorney. However, working side by side with a qualified estate-planning attorney can ensure that you obtain answers for all your questions and consideration for every contingency. You will also have sound advice as life events necessitate the revision of your estate planning documents.