Just type “wills” into Google, and you will be bombarded with advertisements offering to sell you a discount do-it-yourself package at a fraction of the cost of working with an estate professional to create a will. Saving money is good, right, so what could the problem be with just doing it yourself?
Putting aside the fact that many of these DIY will kits are simply templates with instructions (which you can often get free versions of online) – calling into question just how great a value they really are – they also present several dangers, all of which can be avoided by working with an estate planning professional to create your will.
They Can Leave You Exposed to Non-Obvious Problems
A will is much more than deciding who gets what of your current property. In creating a will, you need to be thinking about complex questions such as:
- Who will be the beneficiaries I want to benefit at the time of my death? (which may be different than who those people are now)
- What assets will be in my estate at the time of my death?
- Who will be the executor of my estate?
- How will the executor know what property is being referenced in the will and where to find it?
- How will the executor be able to locate the beneficiaries?
- How can I avoid probate battles between loved ones over ambiguities in the will?
- What happens to property that is no longer in my estate when I die?
- What happens if a beneficiary dies before I do?
- Who will pay my debts – including debts on property I own – after I die?
These are just a few of the questions an estate professional can help you address in devising your estate planning, and which may not be obvious or easy to deal with on your own.
You Need to Be Aware of How State Laws Affect Your Specific Situation
State law will dictate how your will is used to distribute your property in probate court, and every state is different. For example, in some states, there are laws which prevent a married spouse from distributing certain types of property to anyone besides their current spouse.
There could be any number of state laws that affect not only who you can gift property to, but what happens when that property is gone from the estate after your death, what happens if a child is born after the will is created, and even what qualifies as a validly enforceable will. An estate planning professional will walk you through each of these issues to make sure what you put in your will is actually enforced in court after you pass.
A Will May Not Be Your Best Option for Transferring Wealth
Finally, a will is only one way to transfer wealth to loved ones, and, while it may be simpler than other options, it may not provide nearly the same amount of benefits as an alternative estate planning instrument. For example, devising your property via a living or testamentary trust can help your loved ones avoid the delay and cost of probate court altogether, while allowing you to dictate how property should be utilized, and, in some cases even offering protection from taxes and creditors.
Your estate planning professional can guide you through the various estate planning options available to you which can be used in conjunction with or in place of a will.
Update Your Estate Planning With a Pasadena Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning and probate attorney Christopher B. Johnson, located in Pasadena, California, has years of experience in all aspects of estate planning and works with clients from all walks of life to create estate planning tools that reflect their needs and those of their beneficiaries. To request an immediate consultation, contact him today at (877) 755-9178.