More than ever, DIY wills are becoming more common. It’s understandable that with resources like Google, many of us are turning to the internet for information and resources. However, many people don’t realize how risky it is to create DIY legal documents because simply put, we don’t know what we don’t know. Here’s what you need to know before you decide to create your own will or use an online service.
While online companies are making legal services more accessible, they’re also doing their customers a disservice, as evidenced in the recent case of In re Estate of Aldrich, heard in a Florida appeals court. Ms. Aldrich created her will using a downloaded template from E-Z Legal Forms without the advice and guidance of an estate lawyer. It appears, based on the forms she created herself, that she wished to leave specific assets to her sister, and then to her brother if her sister died before her. Her sister did die, but Ms.Aldrich, not realizing this would affect her own assets someday, did not properly update her will.
The assets specifically named in the will went to Ms. Aldrich’s brother, but the template she used did not include a residuary clause, which establishes where unnamed assets should go. As a result, the unnamed assets Ms. Aldrich acquired after she created her will passed under Florida’s intestacy laws and into the hands of her nieces, children of another pre-deceased sibling, instead of to her brother, as she seemed to have wanted.
Unfortunately, because she did not consult a lawyer, instead of leaving her brother her assets, Ms. Aldrich left him with a long, expensive, and otherwise unnecessary court battle. Services like E-Z Legal Forms do not provide personal legal advice or ongoing legal support. Had Ms. Aldrich worked with an estate lawyer to design and then update her plans, she would have left her brother an inheritance of love, rather than a nightmare of time, money and heartache.
This is an important lesson to learn because people too often create their will without having a lawyer review it and then forget to update it as loved ones pass on and new assets are acquired. In the end, their wishes aren’t honored because they weren’t clearly defined, leaving the matter in the hands of the probate court.
This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps folks make informed and empowered decisions about their life and death, for their sake and their loved ones. That’s why Myrna offers a Life and Legacy Planning Session, during which you’ll get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling her office today at (813) 514-2946 to schedule a Life and Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.