Creating a will is one of those things that none of us wants to think about, but we all should do. Setting our loved ones up for success after we pass can offer us peace of mind. It also prevents conflict among our loved ones in the future. To get started, you must decide whether a do-it-yourself will is right for you. While making your decision, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a do-it-yourself will.
Pros & Cons of a Do-It-Yourself Will
A do-it-yourself will is a will you create without the help of an attorney or other licensed professional. Many online services have basic templates and checklists to guide you through the process.
If there are free online templates, why would you hire someone to help you write your will? Is a do-it-yourself will a bad idea? The answers to these questions are not entirely straightforward and depend on your personal situation. To help, we will go through the pros and cons of a do-it-yourself will.
Pros of a Do-It-Yourself Will
There’s no way around it; consulting a lawyer costs money. A do-it-yourself will could save you the cost of hiring a trained professional.
The back and forth between you and your lawyer can take up valuable time. A lawyer will try to iron out all the details of your will. Inevitably, some of these details may not be completely necessary depending on the size of your estate and the number of heirs.
Updating is easy
Updating a do-it-yourself will is as simple as filling out a basic template and going through an online checklist.
Cons of a Do-It-Yourself Will
Mistakes could be costly
Any mistakes made in your will might end up costing your heirs. If your will is invalid, state law will take over, and the court will distribute your estate according to generic state rules. This will likely not be how you wanted to distribute your estate. To make matters worse, the process of distributing your estate will take more time and cost more money, leaving less available for your heirs.
Sometimes we think we are being clear when we are not. Usually, the stakes are low, but an unclear will can lead to conflict between your heirs. The best way to avoid this conflict is to write a clear will, and an experienced attorney knows how to do this.
Wills are primarily governed by state laws. As such, one-size-fits-all templates often fail to account for specific state-level requirements. For example, the Mississippi Code Section 91-5-1 states that two or more credible witnesses must sign a will for it to be valid. If you create your will yourself and accidentally miss a step, the court could invalidate your will entirely. Hiring a local attorney is the best way to ensure the validity of your will under state laws.
One-size-fits-all templates might not fit you
Do you have young children who would need to be cared for if you pass? Do you have step-children? Do you have children from a prior marriage? These are all situations that could complicate how you should write your will. Do-it-yourself templates may not account for the specific needs of your family.
Hard to maximize your family’s benefits
Estate taxes are often complex and nuanced. Properly structuring your estate can reduce its tax burden, maximizing the benefit you provide to your heirs. Only a competent attorney can help you navigate the complexities of tax laws. Further, they will help you structure your estate to maximize what your heirs receive.
Who Should Use A Do-It-Yourself Will?
For some people, the basic template works. A do-it-yourself will may be helpful if you have a very simple estate and wish to distribute it among just a few people. If you are confident you already have all the information you need to execute your will, then a do-it-yourself will might work for you.
Should You Consult a Professional?
You should consider contacting an attorney if you have a complex estate, a complicated family dynamic, or you just want to be sure your will is valid and will result in fulfilling your wishes. An attorney can also help with any questions you have. If you are in Mississippi or Arkansas and need an attorney, the Harris Law Firm, PLLC, can help. Since 1981, our firm has provided skilled and empathetic counsel to our clients. We have experience in areas ranging from estate planning to personal injury. Contact the Harris Law Firm, PLLC, so you can be confident that your estate is distributed exactly as you intend.