We all know we need a will so that our affairs will be in order and our last wishes carried out once we have passed on. But did you know you have options when it comes to creating a will? You may have heard that you can actually do-it-yourself when it comes to creating a will, and it is fairly easy to accomplish online. There are a few considerations to make, however, before going this route.
What Is a Do-It-Yourself Will?
Just as it sounds, a do-it-yourself will (or DIY will) is a last will that you create yourself, without the help of an attorney. In most cases, you utilize an online tool to download and print forms. Fill out the forms, upload your information and the online service will create your will.
Pros of a Do-It-Yourself Will
Pro #1: Avoids Lawyer Fees
There are, of course, costs associated with having an attorney help draw up your will. Some lawyers will charge a flat fee for creating wills, which can vary greatly - from a couple hundred dollars to a thousand or even more. Others may charge hourly. If this is the case, you can expect hourly rates of typically $150/hour and up.
While you may still have to pay a fee to use online resources, taking a do-it-yourself approach is almost always initially a more cost-effective option.
Pro #2: Saves Time
Creating a will using an online service can be a huge time saver upfront. If you have all the information ready, it can take a matter of minutes or an hour or two. You’re able to complete the entire process from the comfort of your home, and there’s no need to make an appointment, commute to an office and meet with an attorney face-to-face.
Cons of a Do-It-Yourself Will
Con #1: Could Cost Your Heirs Time & Money
Wills can be complicated - and you want to know that yours will stand up to scrutiny. When it comes to ensuring your estate is cared for and passed on in a way you’re comfortable with, having an airtight will is key. Any mistakes, misinformation or improper execution can end up costing your heirs time and money later down the line.
If your estate must be probated because your will was improperly executed, this again could cost your heirs time and money before they’ll be able to receive or access their inheritance.
Con #2: State Laws Aren’t Always Considered
If you’re using an online site to complete your DIY will, it’s likely the site will not take into consideration any state-specific regulations regarding the validity of a will. For example, some states may require that your will be signed by multiple witnesses, while others require the seal of a public notary. Before thinking that simply printing your will is the final step, do some research into what your state requires.
Con #3: DIY Wills May Be Too Simple
If you’re particularly concerned about the tax burden your heirs will face upon your death, a DIY will may not offer the more sophisticated tax solutions needed. Additionally, a DIY will may not provide enough direction or specification regarding the future care of any minors currently dependent on you.
Who May Benefit Most From a DIY Will?
Taking a do-it-yourself approach to your will means you will have no assistance from a licensed professional. If your estate is fairly large or complex, you may need the expertise of an attorney. Additionally, if you have dependents who are minors (like children or grandchildren), you need to know that your will depicts exactly how they should be cared for after your passing. If that’s the case, having an attorney involved can help make sure you’ve put the proper measures in place. If you don’t have any dependents, and your estate is fairly small, taking a DIY approach may be sufficient.
If you’re currently working with a trusted financial advisor, ask him or her to help you determine whether or not a DIY will might work for you. If not, they may have their own network of attorneys available to help in your estate planning needs.
Evergreen Financial Group is a Fee-Only Financial Planning and Investment Firm located in Billings, MT serving clients in Montana, Wyoming and virtually across the country. Evergreen Financial Group specializes in working with Christian families, including Young Professionals, Current and Future Retirees and Church Staff Members.
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