These days, DIY is all the rage. From home projects, car maintenance, crafts, cooking and fun projects, you can use the internet to figure out how to do-it-yourself with almost anything these days. But there’s one thing you shouldn’t try out: a DIY will.
A lot of legal websites and even some legal plans offer DIY kits for your estate planning, promising to get your will or trust done for as low as $50, which seems like a bargain compared to the hundreds of dollars you might spend at a lawyer. But estate planning expert and Texas Legal attorney Steve Gonzales says a DIY will is a mistake.
“If I try to do a project and mess up, I can always call a professional. If something as serious as estate planning, there’s no do overs. If you do estate planning wrong, no one knows about it until the person has died and you’re standing in front of the judge in court,” says Gonzales.
DIY Wills Mean Costly Mistakes
Gonzales has seen quite a few clients who’ve come to him for help after using a DIY will from a store or online to create a will or a trust, and then found out there was a major problem after a loved one passed away.
One family used a DIY will kit, but didn’t have it notarized, which is required by Texas Law. To verify the will, the judge required the family to track down the witnesses to the document. Because it was created 20 years earlier, those witness had moved far away and now were quite elderly.
Luckily, they were still alive and were able to come to testify. They said they remembered, but if the judge didn’t believe that, the entire will would have been invalid,” says Gonzales. “It cost the family thousands in legal fees to get it done.”
A Mistake in a DIY Will Can Mean the State Decides
The devil’s in the details, and the law is pretty unforgiving. It’s not an A for effort. It’s pass or fail,” says Gonzales.
It can be hard for families to deal with these realities, especially at a time where they’ve just lost a loved one. Worse yet is when people realize that without a valid will, their loved one’s estate will be divided according to an arbitrary formula set by the state.
Going to an attorney will save your loved ones money and untold hassles in the long run, even if it seems like it costs more upfront, says Gonzales.
“The benefit of doing it yourself and saying some money does not outweigh the risk of something coming out wrong,” he says. “The stakes are too high with estate planning.”
If you don’t have hundreds to shell out for an attorney to create your will or trust, consider a legal insurance plan like Texas Legal. Most legal insurance plans cover basic estate planning services, and their monthly or yearly premiums are less than the cost of a simple will.
Everyone deserves to have the peace of mind that their affairs are in order, no matter what happens. Don’t let a DIY will put your loved ones’ futures at risk.