Have you been putting off the creation of your estate plan because you never seem to have the time and/or money to get it done? If so, you are hardly alone. Over half of all Americans don’t have an estate plan in place despite understanding the importance of having one. One mistake you do not want to make at this point is to try and remedy your problem by using “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) estate planning forms. The Port St. Lucie estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford explain why they warn against using DIY legal documents.
The Importance of Estate Planning
Every adult should have at least a basic estate plan in place. If you die intestate, or without at least a basic Will in place, the State of Florida will decide what happens to your estate assets. You may think you don’t have a large enough estate to worry much about what happens to it; however, if you really think about it, that is likely not the case. Although you may not have a valuable estate in terms of monetary value, you may have possessions that have sentimental or familial value to you. Family heirlooms or items that represent a special time in your life likely have value to you. You may even have promised some of these items to a friend or favored family member. Without an estate plan, however, you have no control over what happens to them. Even a small estate plan can also help protect you and your assets in the event of your incapacity, as well as help with other goals such as asset protection and planning for parents with minor children.
The Problem with DIY
In today’s electronic age where just about anything you want can be found on the internet, it can certainly be tempting to go the DIY route with the estate plan you have been putting off. Doing so, however, could put you and your estate in an even worse position than you were in without a plan! Some of the dangers in DIY documents include:
- Failure to distribute the entire estate – one of the most common problems with a DIY Last Will and Testament, in particular, is the failure to distribute the entire estate. One of the primary reasons for executing a Will is to avoid the intestate succession laws. If any assets are left out of your Will, however, an intestate estate proceeding will have to be initiated. Unfortunately, the language in many DIY Wills does just that, leaves assets out, triggering an intestate probate proceeding.
- Stale language or law – typically, the DIY legal documents you will come across have been around for years. Applicable laws may have changed in the interim, making some of the language in the form, or the entire form, stale from a legal standpoint, prompting litigation.
- The failed interaction between documents – for your plan to be a success, your estate planning documents must work in harmony with each other. The more DIY legal forms you try and use together, the higher the odds are that they will result in failure.
- Not state specific – many of the laws that govern estate planning documents are state laws. For this reason, the documents you use in your estate plan must be state specific to ensure they will be valid. Many DIY forms, however, are generic and may not be considered valid in Florida (or whatever state your probate occurs in)
- Improper execution – legal forms often have specific rules for execution, such as the need to be executed in front of two neutral witnesses. Because those can also vary from state to state, a generic form doesn’t work.
Who Pays the Price?
The most important deterrent to the use of DIY estate planning forms should be the knowledge that it will be your loved ones who pay the price for your use of those forms. You, after all, will likely be gone when your estate plan unfolds. If the use of DIY forms leads to time consuming and expensive litigation, it will be your loved ones who pay the price.
Contact Port St. Lucie Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding estate planning, contact an experienced Port St. Lucie estate planning lawyer at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.