The Dangers of Do-It-Yourself or DIY Wills

With everything available at the click of a button, many people think that downloading a Do-It Yourself or DIY will is an effective way to get a will in place.  The biggest mistake many consumers make is to utilize services like LegalZoom or other platforms and think they “have everything covered.”  But, the state you reside in, your familial situation, and many other factors can make this an extremely risky proposition.  Unfortunately, your family will realize this mistake and it will be too late to address important issues, many that could have been prevented with proper planning.  In this article, we discuss the dangers of DIY wills.

Online Legal Services:  Too Good To Be True

Creating a will by yourself or preparing estate planning documents without the advice of an attorney create a big risk. Online estate planning services are a popular choice for some people who believe they can save time and money by doing it themselves. While there may seem to be benefits by using an online service, whatever these perceived benefits may be, are far outweighed by the negatives. There are serious consequences to creating a will or estate plan without professional assistance. Estate planning is vital to preserving wealth, passing assets to heirs, ensuring that last wishes are upheld, making sure that healthcare decisions made for you are what you wish, and so much more. Online services offer minimal customization, no personal accountability, and you won’t know there are problems with the documents. It is not until your loved ones try to use them after your death that they encounter costly problems, producing unforeseen outcomes that you never would have wanted.

What an Attorney Does that an Online Service Doesn’t

One of the greatest dangers of online do-it-yourself estate planning services or DIY wills is that they lull people into a false sense of security. The online services can seem reasonable, but may be comparable in fees, as hiring an estate planning attorney.  After all, for about the cost of a weekend getaway, you can get a basic estate plan that carefully considers your unique situation and create a specific plan for your needs.  Vague or DIY wills may be deemed invalid by a probate court or fail to ensure your wishes are carried out.  Some online documents inadvertently give too much power to a durable power of attorney. For example, a do-it-yourself will and estate plan will likely fail to take into account any of the following issues that an experienced estate planning attorney would certainly cover:

  • Create necessary trusts to preserve wealth for spouses, children, grandchildren, and other family members;
  • Provide professional tax guidance;
  • Distinguish accurately between probate and non-probate assets;
  • Provide representation for executors of the will, trustees, or estate administrators;
  • Create a valid trust for special needs children;
  • Create an accurate advance health care directive or durable power of attorney.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Wills Often Fail to Meet Basic Requirements

In order for a will to be valid, it must meet certain basic requirements, such as being properly witnessed. In addition, it must address how debts and taxes should be paid, who should act as administrator, name potential guardians to minor children, and much more. A DIY will is probably not the right choice for you unless you are single, have no children or dependents, own no real property, and have few assets. Because most people do not fall into this category, do-it-yourself wills and online estate plans are too risky.

The Maryland Estate Planning Attorneys at Frame & Frame Can Help

It is not a good idea to cut corners on your last will and testament by doing it yourself with an inexpensive online service.  If you want your last wishes upheld and able to withstand contestation, or if you want to pass down your property with minimal taxes and other implications, we strongly urge you to contact the top Maryland estate planning lawyers at Frame & Frame to schedule a free consultation before you make any final decisions about your will, trust, or estate plan.

Additional Resources:

Free Guide to Estate Planning

What is the Difference Between a Will & Trust?