Do it yourself (or “DIY”) is becoming more popular every day. There is a DIY for almost everything from household products to legal documents. DIY wills offer a cheaper alternative to hiring an attorney, but as attractive as those prices may seem, it can be a risky approach. Many people are avoiding hiring an attorney do their estate planning documents. If some errors are made or if the strict witnessing rules are not followed, the entire document could be invalid. More often than not, DIY wills have these common mistakes:
- Listing every asset. It is understandable that most people want to leave the remnants of their estate to their children in equal shares, but imagine trying to evenly divide up every asset that you have. It is highly unlikely that you will die today or tomorrow, and from that point, the list of your assets will change quite a bit. You actually have no idea what your assets will be when your Will goes into effect. For some people, that could be decades from now. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life changing your will every time you buy or sell an item.
- Including things that the person doesn’t fully own. It is common for one to leave their house to a family member, as part of their estate. However, many homes are owned jointly. For example, property owned by a married couple. In these cases, the surviving spouse will automatically own the house, regardless of whoever was left the house in the will.
- Children or other relatives witness the document. The two people that witness you signing your will should be adults who are not beneficiaries or parties to the will. Many people make this mistake and it could cause your document to be considered invalid.
The implications of an invalid will can be serious and could not only leave your family with a financial and stressful mess, but your legacy may be chipped away by legal bills. No, it is not required to hire an attorney to prepare your Estate Planning Documents, but does have benefits.