In an increasingly digital society where we have become use to just “googling” the answers to our questions, there is no shortage of online legal advice and self-help. While some of this information can be valid and very useful, it doesn’t take the place of an actual lawyer that is able to apply the law to individual circumstances.
In fact, the ready availability of do-it-yourself legal guides on the web can pose a serious risk to people that use them, especially in the case of wills. Given how important your last will and testament is, it is essential to make sure that all details have been addressed and that all of your bases are covered so that you are able to distribute assets you have worked a lifetime for according to your wishes. According to the American Bar Association, three common dangers of do-it-yourself wills include:
Forms found online are prepared as generic forms so that they can be advertised to a larger number of consumers. They often lack important details that might be necessary to create a valid will in some circumstances. While they may seem to touch on every important item, they are often vague and can easily overlook important and unique details that apply to your individual needs. This can result in an incomplete will that does not address every issue that is likely to arise and leaves the rest of the will open to be contested. Even in cases where it appears that creating a will is a straightforward process, you may be missing or overlooking incredibly important details that could affect the validity of your will.
Easier to Contest
Many states, including New York, have laws that direct a court to presume a will is valid if it was executed in the presence of an attorney. The main reason for creating this presumption is that an attorney, especially one that focuses their practice on wills, is aware of the various requirements needed to create a valid will.
If an attorney is given the opportunity to work with someone to create and execute a will, a court will more easily presume that all requirements to make a valid will have been met. If you have used a downloadable form and gone through the execution process yourself, you can easily overlook small details that can affect the validity of your will and leave it open to be contested. In such cases, an independent attorney that has drafted your will can be a crucial witness to the court in testifying about the validity of your will.
There are many tax concerns on both the state and federal level surrounding the creation of a will. Laws governing how taxes are applied can change quickly, and do change often. An attorney that focuses their work on wills is likely to be aware of these changes and able to explain how they can affect you and your loved ones. There are often different methods of distributing certain assets, some which can save you considerable time and money when it comes to taxes. Do-it-yourself wills tend to fall short in explaining the tax consequences that accompany certain provisions in your will.