Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I will begin this post with the disclaimer that you probably already know, I am an estate planning lawyer. What does this mean for you, perhaps my opinion iss a little biased, but I also have more experience than you in this area. I warn you to take my opinion as one of many you will look up and you will surely find the answer you are looking for.
So the question is, when do I need an attorney to do my Will?
My answer is, almost always. You question should be why. I will give you three options that are non-attorney related and the reasons these option will leave you lacking.
Option One: Get a sample Will online and just change the name to my name.
Why This Is A Dumb Idea: You Google a Will online and think it may fit your situation. You say, "I don't have a big estate anyway, what could go wrong?" The short answer is everything. Wills have state specific requirements. In order fr Wills to be valid, you must comply exactly with the rules of your state. Do you know how many wittnesses you need in your state. Do you know the requirements for the execution ceremony for your Will? Do you understand how your property will be divided after you pass? You will have to know the difference between per stirpes and per capita with representation. You probably have not even heard of the concept of per stirpes before. I am sure you will Google it now though. An online Will may seem to fit your situation, but in most cases, they do not. There is a good chance that you do not understand what parts of that Will do not apply to you and what parts you may need that are missing. An online Will can only lead to frustration for you and your family.
Option Two: I will simply hand write my own wishes and leave them where they can be found.
Why This Is A Dumb Idea: Some states do not recognize a holographic Will. I am sure you will be Googleing holographic Will now. If you do not know if your state recognizes it, you are asking for a world of trouble. Additionally, Holographic Wills are easily challenged in court. This option leaves either two results. One, your will was never valid in the first place and your property will be distributed through your states intestate statute. Option Two, is that your Will is challenged and that means your sanity is challenged This is a horrible process and usually breaks up families that were tight before the process.
Option Three: Purchase a Will from a legal zoom type website.
Why This Is A Dumb Idea: You are hiring an "attorney" to prepare you a Will. Your Will will be a template, based upon a few questions you answer in a pull down menu. What are the chances that an attorney will be able to find out the proper information in a few pull down menu? Not very likely. This is not a customer satisfaction survey from an online retailer. No attorney can create a plan from you with only a few questions. This is a sham of an operation. People can only provide you a proper plan if they can ask you a question and get a response that is not forced to fit one of three options. You are not the same as your neighbor and your plan can not be the same as your neighbors. This is you Will, not an I pod. The ability to have a dialog is vital to getting a plan that is proper for your situation. Additionally, the cost of a live attorney is not substantially more than an online service. I call those who use this service penny wise, pound foolish.
So this leaves you with the final question, who doesn't need an attorney to draft their Will? Only those individuals who do not care where their property goes when they die. If your opinion is that, I am dead and I don't care what happens to my stuff, intestate is the way for you. If you would like to have some control where your property goes, you should get an attorney to prepare a Will for you.
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