Although drafting a last will and testament can be daunting, doing so is the most necessary of evils. Because of the time and expense associated with properly drafting a will, more and more people are forgoing hiring an attorney. Instead, they are opting to use online, do-it-yourself software to expedite the process. Although websites such as ‘Legalzoom’ and ‘Quicken WillMaker Plus’ sound great with their low costs and guarantees, there are pitfalls that consumers must consider before choosing a template over a qualified attorney to draft such a crucial form. Generic, do-it-yourself wills are often too simplistic to advise on individual circumstances including domestic partnerships, children from previous marriages and disinherited children, just to name a few.
Furthermore, specifics required for a will and testament to be recognized by the state can differ drastically depending on where a consumer lives. The failure of these sites to comply with such formalities could result in a will that does more harm than good. Most of the faux pas associated with these forms involve its execution, or the way the document is witnessed and signed. Many consumers do not realize that allowing a person of vested interest in the estate to serve as a witness can invalidate the document and would allow for the wills dismissal in court.
Recently, Forbes consultant, Timothy Kalamanas, compared drafting your own will to “pulling your tooth out with a pair of pliers, instead of going to a dentist.” Sounds silly and painful, but the comparison makes a great point. A will that is improperly executed will invariably lead to a long, drawn out, and, expensive court battle over taxation of assets and division of property.
In summary, it is important to understand that peace of mind has no price tag. Although a lawyer may cost more initially, hiring one can potentially save your loved ones, not only money in estate tax, but hardship and time in probate court. It is necessary to feel confident and invested in a document that will represent you at a time when you are no longer able to represent yourself.