For many Americans who procrastinate about creating a will, the reasoning often comes down to one of two main issues. They either don’t think they need one because their estate is too small, or they’re just leery of paying an attorney to do the work. The first reason is common, since roughly half of us seem to question the need for estate planning. That second reason is perfectly understandable, especially in uncertain economic times. Nevertheless, we all need some sort of estate plan, and everyone should have at least a simple will. And for a variety of reasons, that means that we need an attorney – at least we do if we want to ensure that we create a will the right way.
Are There Alternatives to an Attorney?
The more frugal among us often wonder whether an attorney is required for the drafting of a will. After all, it seems like a simple enough matter: just write out a list of your assets and declare who gets what. Of course, that leaves you open to making the types of mistakes that could make the will invalid. Alternatively, there are a variety of forms available online, both free and low-cost. You can even find form wills at stationary stores in some malls across the nation. Why not use one of those, and save yourself hundreds of dollars in attorney’s fees?
The answer to those questions is simple and easy to understand. The short answer is that you can indeed opt for a do-it-yourself or formula approach to crafting a will. The long answer is that you can choose that route, but you’ll never be sure if it was the right approach. The fact is that you should only choose DIY options if you’re certain that your situation and financial circumstances are straightforward and simple. Unfortunately, only an attorney can accurately determine how simple your needs truly might be.
Problems with DIY Wills
Those DIY wills are just about useless for most special circumstances – and most of us have at least one or two special issues that need to be addressed while developing our estate plan. Consider your family and financial circumstances. Do you have minor children, or a child with special needs? Do you need to address issues with an heir who can’t be trusted with large sums of money? Are there business interests involved in your planning? Is there any possible way that a form could provide the flexibility you need to address any of these complex concerns? The answer is obvious.
DIY wills are simply not designed for anything other than a one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning. It’s also important to note that many of the offerings you will find online will go out of their way to convince you that their services can provide you with the valid will you need, but then dilute that promise by including disclaimers that admit that their services are not a valid substitute for an attorney’s assistance. It’s enough to make you wonder whether they’re not simply trying to sell you something, right?
The fact is that those products are not a substitute for professional legal counsel. They can provide you with a false sense of security, since you’ll never know how valid that document truly is until you have it reviewed by a real attorney. And if you’re going to pay an attorney to examine your will for defects – and fix those errors when they’re found, then it makes more sense to just have the document prepared right the first time.
How an Attorney Can Help
With an attorney at your side, you can be sure that the Last Will and Testament that you create is one that will serve its purpose within your overall estate plan. The will is a legal document that helps to define how your affairs are settled when you pass away. Your attorney can help to guide you through the complexities of the law and ensure that your last wishes are properly expressed in a document that is executed in accordance with your state’s statutes. That’s critical, since the will needs to be approved by a probate court before probate can even begin.
Beyond helping you with your will, that attorney can ensure your other estate planning needs are met, too. While everyone needs a will, many of us need other tools as well. For example, remember that special needs child we mentioned earlier? A lawyer would know enough to recognize that your Last Will and Testament is probably not the best place to prepare for that child’s future needs. Instead, he or she would recommend the use of a special needs trust to ensure that any benefits your child might be receiving in the future are not put at risk by a direct inheritance from a will.
You can also get important legal counsel about incapacity planning to ensure that you have the power of attorney needed to protect the continuity of your decision-making. You can receive advice about retirement planning and business planning strategies. He or she may also be able to even help you prepare for future Medicaid needs – in case you find yourself in need of nursing home care when you reach your golden years. In short, your estate planning lawyer can guide you through the creation of a comprehensive plan that will secure your legacy.
Of course, that’s all icing on the cake when it comes to your need for a Last Will and Testament. At the Potter Law Firm, we have you covered with estate planning services that can help you to create a will the right way every time. We’ll work with you to identify your unique needs and shape the will that you need to ensure that your last wishes receive the respect they deserve. We can also help you determine whether you need additional estate planning tools to handle those special circumstances where a will just might not be sufficient. If you’d like to learn more about how our experts can help meet your needs, contact us online or call us today at (704) 944-3245.
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