VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Why a DIY will might be a mistake

People in Florida who need to make an estate plan might be considering a do-it-yourself will. However, there are some drawbacks to making a will without legal assistance. No two estates are the same, and generic advice may not be appropriate for a person's situation.

Another issue is that state laws vary regarding wills. Software is unlikely to capture all of these variations. Furthermore, there can be a number of issues that complicate an estate plan including issues like homestead rights and elective share laws. Precision in legal language may be required in some cases as well. In an effort to make do-it-yourself packages understandable, many of the forms have been simplified. However, this can mean that critical, state-specific information is omitted.

If errors such as these are made, the will might not be considered valid. Unfortunately, most software includes disclaimers that do not guarantee that their product will produce a legally valid will.

A better choice for someone preparing an estate plan might be to work with an attorney. This is not just to help ensure the validity of the estate plan. The attorney might also bring up a number of relevant points and strategies that may not have been previously considered by the individual who is planning his or her estate. For example, one important part of making an estate plan is making provisions in case of incapacitation. A power of attorney authorizing a family member or other loved one to handle financial matters and documents that outline a person's wishes for their health care are important if this occurs. People also may not realize that a vehicle like a trust could be suitable for them if they have a beneficiary who has special needs or is simply incapable of managing money responsibly, a trust can be set up to distribute money based on certain conditions.

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