Do It Yourself Wills

Do It Yourself Wills

Most estate planning attorneys, including myself, like to rail about the dangers of online and store bought do-it-yourself wills. LegalZoom is the best known purveyor of on-line wills but there is no shortage of lesser known companies, including most office supply and legal form stores.

Nevertheless, in certain limited circumstances, and for certain people, a do-it-yourself will may be okay.

But, what are those limited circumstances and who are those certain people?

Let’s say you are 25 years old, unmarried, childless, and have minimal assets. You don’t own a home and you have maybe a few thousand dollars in checking and savings or in the beginnings of a retirement account. There are some lawyers who will tell you that not only do you need a professionally prepared last will and testament but that you might also need a revocable living trust.

You don’t.

For me, estate planning is about helping my clients protect themselves in the event of incapacity, and protect their families in the event of their death. But there are some people, like the 22-year-old mentioned above, who really only need a simple will to direct where their things should go if they died unexpectedly while on that trip down the Amazon. They don’t need a trust because they don’t have any children and because they can use a pay on death designation on their bank accounts.  As for their personal property, an online or store bought Will, along with a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is probably ok.

My biggest concern is regarding the execution of the documents. The problem is that often these do-it-yourself wills are not properly executed. In Nevada, in order for a Will to be valid, it has to be executed in the presence of two witnesses and in the presence of a notary public. The problem with these do-it-yourself wills is that the companies either do not provide proper instructions to regarding how to execute the documents, or, the clients completely ignore them and do not follow the instructions. This can be a problem.

But other than that, for certain people, like my hypothetical 22 year old, a store bought or do-it-yourself will is probably fine.

Now, if you have children, or more significant assets, or real estate, then I do not recommend a do-it-yourself estate planning solution. But, if you are single, childless and broke, you don’t need me, and you certainly don’t need a revocable living trust, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to sell you something.

If you have questions about whether or not you actually need a will, contact J. Scott MacDonald at MacDonald & Associates for a free consultation.



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