Wills and Estate Planning

Should You Use a "Do-it-Yourself" Will?

Creating a will yourself is an option in the estate planning process, but there are times when you should consult a lawyer and get their expertise, especially if your affairs are complicated.

Do-It-Yourself Will: Is it Always a Good Choice?

Creating your last will and testament online can be a quick, easy, and affordable alternative over enlisting the services of a lawyer. But how do you know when it's right for you?

How complex is your will?

With many sites offering do-it-yourself wills for under $100, the online process may be an easy way for creating a will at a bargain price. And they probably are if you need only a simple will - meaning you don't have a lot of assets or investments that you need to consider.

But real life isn't always so simple. Special assets such as a family business or property in multiple states, stepchildren, and other situations don't always fit into an online fill-in-the-blank form. Depending on your situation, you'll also need to familiarize yourself regarding estate laws in your jurisdiction.

When should you consult a lawyer?

While much of the population can benefit from an online will, there are certain situations that warrant an attorney's expertise. If your affairs are complicated or you have substantial assets, you may want to seek the help of an attorney if:

  • You or your spouse are citizens of another country.
  • Your estate contains significant assets that may be subject to estate taxes.
  • You have specific plans for those inheriting your property. For example, leaving your house in trust to your spouse until he or she dies and then having it pass to your children from a previous marriage.
  • You are a business owner and have questions as to the rights of surviving owners or your ownership share.
  • You have a special-needs or a dependent adult child, and arrangements such as setting up a trust to ensure that person's long-term care must be made.
  • You have a spouse who may need nursing home care.
  • You anticipate that someone may contest your will.
  • You have been married more than once.
  • You have minor children and need to make specific guardianship arrangements.
  • You are raising grandchildren or stepchildren.
  • You specifically wish to disinherit, or substantially disinherit, your spouse.
  • You are in a same-sex relationship.
  • You have questions and aren't sure what your available options are.

Even if you decide to create your will yourself, don't altogether rule out consulting a lawyer. In many situations, you can get the answers you need without having to relinquish to a lawyer the entire project of making a will. You may want to also consider asking an attorney to review your document and even oversee the execution of the will. Often, fees for this type of legal service are considerably less than if you had an attorney draw up the entire document.

Remember, if you decide to seek professional advice, make sure you find a lawyer who specializes in estate planning and knows your state laws. Tax attorneys, accountants, and certified financial planners can also help with estate planning issues. For more information on understanding wills, visit the American Bar Association.

Sources used in this article include:

American Bar Association

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This article provides some guidelines to be aware of if creating an online will. Complexity of personal finances, determining asset distribution and accounting for the future needs of your survivors are all components that may need to be addressed in your will. Even if you decide to write an online will, it may still be a good idea to consult a lawyer. You may be surprised to find the fee for this type of legal service is considerably less than if the lawyer constructed the entire document. For more information, visit our learning center.

All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

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