You know you need a will. Why not use one of those online legal services — or just write it yourself?
As professional trustee and executor Marguerite C. Lorenz explains, a DIY will may cause more problems than it solves:
For some people with complicated personal and financial lives, today’s complexities may not be fully addressed with a do-it-yourself service for wills and trusts. While many of us would prefer to fill in the blanks in silence than have to talk to anyone about our doubts or concerns, sometimes it helps — a lot — to get professional advice.
If you prepare your taxes yourself and they end up incorrect, you and the Internal Revenue Service may end up working things out. If you decide to do your estate planning by yourself,” however, you may never know the results of your work, but your loved ones will.
In other words: if you leave behind a will that does not include all of your assets, that contains errors or contradictory instructions, or — as Lorenz warns — doesn’t play well with your state’s probate laws, your loved ones could inherit a pile of trouble.
Even an online legal service might not have all of the tools you need to create an effective will. We’ve covered this topic before, back in 2011:
Three DIY will-making products—LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Quicken WillMaker Plus—were evaluated on a number of quality measures by a law school professor who specialises in estates and trusts. He found that all three produced wills that are better than having no will at all and can be good for thinking about estate planning...but there were problems inherent with all of the DIY products if you have anything but very simple will-making needs. For example, two had outdated information. Also, some specific tax and trust issues couldn’t be handled by the software. (Of the three, by the way, WillMaker Plus was rated best for drawing up a simple will.)
DIY legal software is getting better all the time—and Top Ten Reviews confirms that Quicken WillMaker Plus is still the best software option, even in 2019 — but these tools might not be robust enough to handle your estate planning needs.
Like it or not, you may want to contact an attorney before drawing up your will (and refer back to that attorney if you plan to revise the document). This could cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of your estate.
However, a well-written will can save your beneficiaries a lot of time and hassle, and it can help ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
Have you created a will? Did you consult with an attorney or do it yourself? If a loved one left behind a DIY will, how easy was it for that document to be executed? Writing your own will is always an option, but it might not necessarily be the best one.