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Homemade Wills Can Thwart Intentions, Inconvenience Heirs

September 8, 2015

A do-it-yourself last will and testament sounds like a great idea. Instead of paying a lawyer hundreds of dollars (at least) to draw one up, you can spend little or nothing downloading a template from the Internet and filling in the blanks.

But it can be a case of getting what you pay for — at a much higher cost, potentially, to one’s heirs — writes probate attorney and WealthManagement.com guest-columnist Hallie Zobel. In plain terms, DIY wills don’t always pass muster in probate court, where wills get the green light to go into effect.

To keep clients from putting their heirs through the expense and trouble of ironing out questionable wills, Zobel recommends that financial advisors share with their clients stories that show how bad things can go with DIY wills.

Take the woman who typed up her own will and failed to mention the two of her four adult children from an earlier marriage — and mentioned a grandchild as a beneficiary but failed to make actual provision, within a trust, for managing the money so set aside. This case cost Zobel’s client — one of the children mentioned in the will — $22,000 to resolve. And that’s not counting “the emotional trauma” this client experienced under threat of being sued by one of the unmentioned children for exercising undue influence over the deceased person who made the will.

In other words, wobbly wills can cause trouble. “Preserving one’s legacy and final wishes in the precise manner of one’s choosing shouldn’t be risked with the use of DIY forms,” writes Zobel, partner at Your Caring Law Firm in Maitland, Fla. “In many cases, it will cost their heirs more in the long run than it would had the testator sought the expertise of legal counsel to either look over their documents or create them altogether.”

By Thomas Coyle
  • To read the WealthManagement.com article cited in this story, click here.