Excuse #3 – Do It Yourself Wills that WON’T!

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Note:  This is Excuse #3 of 5 in our important series, “5 Excuses that can Devour Your Estate & Destroy Your Family”.  To read Excuse #1, click here.

As the economy continues to bear down upon families and bleed wallets dry, more and more people are tempted to save money by going the “Do It Yourself” (a.k.a. DIY) route.  My friend ranks right up there with the best of them.  She spruced up every room in her house with a coat of paint, gave her bathroom a mini make-over with new shower fixtures, made her outdated laminate countertops look brand spankin’ new with tile, and changed the entire look of her cupboards with trendy Ralph Lauren Metallics and large classy hardware.  Toss in laying wooden floors in her master suite and office, hanging ceiling fans and light fixtures, installing lovely outdoor lighting, and I begin to tire just thinking about it… and that was just last year’s projects!

Although she puts most handy men to shame, she has zero remodeling training or experience; just a ton of creativity (and patience) and more energy than a 20 year old.  So, shouldn’t someone like that be able to do anything she puts her mind to – including a DIY will?  Maybe.  Should she?  Probably not.  If you were to ask her, she would say, “Absolutely not!”  The reason is simply because she experienced firsthand the difference a good will makes for a family – and the pain, heartache, and hardship that not having one causes. 

She was unfortunate enough to lose her father and beloved step-father six months apart.  They were both only 65 years old.  Her step-father was the wiser of the two.  His excellent planning with a trusted advisor enabled her mom to grieve the loss of the love of her life in peace.  Nine years later, she’s in a new relationship and remains in the comfort of her home which she’s owned for 50 years now. 

Her step-mother wasn’t so lucky.  Her real father’s poor planning and DIY Will forced her step-mom to go back to work as a checkout clerk two days after she buried her beloved.  She wasn’t even able to afford a small trailer on her meager salary, so she ended up moving in with one of her children.  My friend has never forgotten viewing her father’s body in a rented casket in a cheesy strip mall prior to cremation.  Not because of a spiritual choice … it was simply all her step-mom could afford.  My friend has very strong feelings about what you should, and should not, attempt on your own.  On a lighter side, she would also add that dying your hair falls into the no-no category since she’s been the not-so-proud owner of shocking shades of blonde, burgundy, orange and even moss green as a result of “do it yourself” efforts!

If curiosity killed the cat and somewhere along the way you caved and Googled “DIY wills”  (not that we recommend it, of course) you probably found a reason for every case against the idea, so what should you believe?  We can’t answer that for you.  We can only tell you that, after my 25 years of experience with estate planning, I think you owe it to yourself to speak with a professional estate planning attorney before you make your final decision.

We can also tell you a few things that a Do It Yourself Will MAY NOT do (yikes, that’s a mouthful).  Here goes… drum roll…

A DIY Will:

  • May not protect you and your family
  • Won’t do what you think it’s going to do
  • May not give your beneficiaries what you think/hope/expect
  • Won’t save you money in the long run
  • Won’t save your heirs time & fees
  • Won’t provide your loved ones with the peace of mind you’re looking for
  • Won’t save you Estate Tax dollars
  • Won’t be a quick fix

 

As recent as last quarter, we learned of a man who felt that not mentioning his daughter automatically disinherited her, which isn’t the case.  She can now contest his desires as he’s not competent.  There was also the person whose beneficiary was a Witness, which isn’t permissible because it’s not objective.  Another common mistake is something as basic as “the numbers don’t add up” to 100%.  People will leave “20 to this one” and “30 to that one”.  When it’s all said and done, it doesn’t add up to 100% of the estate.

Personally, I feel the big risk with a DIY Will is that well intentioned people don’t know what they don’t know.  Does that make sense?  It’s a very scary situation – especially when you’re living it!  So, if you find yourself spinning around in circles, confused by all the DIY Will options, mumbling “I don’t want to pay an attorney for something that I can do myself,” simply envision my friend with moss green hair and a hammer – and pick up the phone and call Parrish Law for some great guidance and direction.  Our Will WON’T disappoint.  It WILL deliver.  Guaranteed.

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