These do-it-yourself forms, whether found in books or online, are generated by estate planning computer software that is designed to cover only the most basic of estate planning needs. Even books and programs about estate planning recommend that you seek the expertise of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Self-drafted estate planning documents are notorious for mistakes. Some common problems include:
–Failing to provide for what should happen to property in your estate that you have not specifically mentioned in your will. The property could be omitted through oversight; it could have been acquired after the will was drafted; or its intended beneficiary could have predeceased you and you did not name an alternate.
–Failing to provide for the possibility that you may have more children after executing your documents. States have laws designed to protect children born after a will is executed from being unintentionally disinherited. These laws vary and are not a guarantee.
–Not executing your estate planning documents with the legally required formalities.
–A document that is improperly executed is not valid. In most states, a will must show the testator’s intent to make a will; the testator must have testamentary capacity; the will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who watch the testator sign the will and then sign it themselves. The witnesses must also be disinterested parties, which means they are not beneficiaries under the will. Other estate planning documents require similar execution procedures.
Estate planning is a complex endeavor that puts clients at risk for many mistakes. Working with an experienced professional will ensure that you avoid them.
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