Writing a will or having some form of estate document is a crucial endeavor that people need to start working on as early as possible. However, a lot of people either don’t see the urgency in it or are holding it off because they think it’s expensive. True enough, planning your estate can cost you quite a hefty sum of money — but this is a necessary expense that will pay off in the long run.
Because of the cost of estate planning and engaging the assistance of an attorney to help draft a will, a lot of people DIY their wills. While it’s easy to write a will and dictate where one’s assets can go, doing it without the assistance of an estate planning attorney can expose the will to crucial problems that will cost the estate more when it’s time to execute it.
The Risks of Writing a Will Without the Help of an Estate Planning Attorney
At first glance, it looks easy to write a will and plan your estate. But in these situations, the devil is in the details. Even the slightest mistake or missing information can pose problems in the probate process, which burdens the beneficiaries, the executor, and the estate.
Here are some of the common risks associated with DIY wills that were written without the help of an estate planning attorney.
1. Lack of stipulations about the priority of payments
A will document does not only work to divide the assets of the deceased. It also controls the way debts, bills, and other outstanding balances are settled. A person writing a will should outline the priority of payments to help the executor carry them out. But this is something that a lot of DIY wills fail to do.
2. Not providing a backup executor or personal representative and beneficiaries
Especially when it comes to old wills that haven’t been updated in years, there is a high chance that the primary people named in the will did not survive the debtor, or are unable or unwilling to participate in the division of assets. Here lies the importance of having a backup in all areas of the will — from the executor or personal representative to backup provisions regarding the assets should the primary beneficiary be unable to receive them.
A lot of people fail to list backups and contingencies in their wills, which costs the estate more money as the court tries to decipher the will’s intention during probate and decide where the assets should go.
3. Ambiguous wording
The provisions a person writes in a will may seem clear to them, but they have to remember that it’s not them nor their families who will be deciphering the will. It’s the court, as the will controls the entire probate process.
Because of this, everything written in the will should be clear and specific. Some of the errors DIY wills make is not being specific on the type of asset, the names of the beneficiaries or charity, etc. And these ambiguous wording mistakes can cost the estate big.
These are just some of the most expensive mistakes that people make in their DIY will. Coincidentally, these are also errors that can easily be avoided by engaging the help of an estate planning attorney. A lawyer can help ensure that everything in the will is valid and set up in a way that prevents problems during execution. Although there is the added expense of engaging a lawyer, doing so will save the estate from expensive mistakes in the long run.