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Why You Should Avoid Do-It-Yourself Wills

I admit, it’s tempting.  The lure of the instant solution, avoiding a stodgy lawyer’s office, saving money, and a easy way to check that project off your to-do list.  I’m speaking of course about the myriad of online options for creating your own will or trust.  It seems like they’re all over the internet these days.  But like so many other things on the internet, you should be careful where you tread.  Sometimes because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Not that you’re not capable of following the instructions for these DIY documents, but there are several great reasons why you shouldn’t trust your family’s future to an internet special.

One size does not fit all

There is much more to a will or trust than just a form.  While there may be websites out there touting their forms as “standard,” every person’s estate plan is unique.  It’s impossible for one form to work for everyone, no matter what the websites claim.  Estate planning attorneys have been trained to evaluate your particular situation and craft a plan that fits your circumstances, meets your budget, and, most importantly, ensures you wishes are followed.

Have you checked all the boxes?

Without the involvement of an experienced attorney, you run the risk of the will or trust not being valid in Texas.  Our state has its own laws for these planning tools.  To be certain that your plan conforms to Texas law and meets the requirements of the probate process, many things must be considered.

To name a few: Did you follow the formalities of execution so your will can be probated?  Did you employ safeguards to prevent it from being contested?  Does your will contemplate the complex differences between separate and community property in Texas?  Does it properly define all the legal terms it contains to avoid ambiguity between provisions?  Does your chosen executor qualify under the law?  Have you considered a trust for your beneficiaries’ protection from creditors or a living trust for yourself to avoid probate?  There are dozens of other concerns that should be discussed with an attorney to make sure your plan is sound.

Artificial intelligence is just that

Yes, AI has come a long way the last few years, but it is still has a long way to go before you should trust it with your hard-earned assets.  No software or robot or website can match the expertise of a seasoned estate planning attorney.  There are simply too many important issues that must be addressed to ensure your plan doesn’t run afoul.

One area where AI is particularly weak is planning for contingencies.  For example, you likely won’t be asked to account for the possible future disability of a named beneficiary or to specify certain authorities of your executor necessary to accomplish your wishes or to plan for the potential inheritance by a minor child if your primary beneficiary predeceases you or simply disclaims your bequest.  If your AI-generated plan contains these types of gaps, they are ticking time bombs.  Experienced estate planners are experts at providing safety nets so your plan doesn’t implode when you need it most.

You may wind up paying much more in the end

Assume for a moment that you choose to go the easy route and one of the disaster scenarios described above comes to pass.  The cost of having a probate attorney sort through the issues and get your plan back on track likely far outweighs the cost of doing it the right way in the first place.  Despite what you may have heard, the economics of an estate plan allow pretty much everyone to afford a plan.

While it does require a time commitment up front, a few conversations with an attorney to identify, review, and resolve issues before drafting your estate plan can be priceless.  That’s the real value an attorney brings to the table – experience and advice.  Not just a form.

Bottom line: There is no substitute for sound legal advice.  It may be tempting to go the online route for your estate plan, but cutting corners can end up costing you far more than what you saved and cause problems for your loved ones that could have been easily avoided.


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This article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be legal, financial, or tax advice. The information provided herein was accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change without notice. We recommend that you consult an estate planning attorney or a tax advisor to discuss how current laws apply to your situation.

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