Having a valid last will and testament can offer you great peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be followed after your death—but can you accomplish that goal with a so-called “do-it-yourself will?”
Perhaps, but before you move forward with making a last will online using downloadable forms, you should know that there are pros and cons to doing so. Read on for more information to consider when deciding whether a DIY last will and testament is the right choice for you.
What is a do-it-yourself last will?
A do-it-yourself will, also called a DIY will, is a last will and testament created entirely online by the person writing a will.
DIY last will services provide the forms and all the person creating a last will has to do is fill in the information requested and print out the results.
Pros of DIY Wills
The most obvious advantages of making a last will via a do-it-yourself will kit are time and money—at least in the present. Creating a last will online can cost less than getting an attorney involved in the will-writing process, and an online will service can allow a person to make a will in mere minutes.
Those who can benefit most from DIY wills are people with a relatively small estate (a value that doesn’t reach the level of being subject to estate taxes) and no minor children.
Cons of DIY wills
Even the pros listed above could have potential cons attached in the future, however. The money you save now as you create a last will online could end up costing your estate and/or your heirs' money later if the will isn’t valid or its validity ends up being contested because it wasn’t written well enough to withstand objections.
And the same goes for time. Probating your estate—and distributing assets to your heirs—could end up taking a lot longer than it has to if the will wasn’t executed properly or otherwise has problems that must be resolved by the probate court.
Remember that state laws regarding will execution vary greatly, and some DIY will sites may not take that into consideration when preparing your last will. Some jurisdictions, for example, require a certain number of witnesses present at the will’s signing and/or the seal of a notary public.
DIY wills can also fail to take into account specific estate planning needs such as avoiding potential estate taxes and may not fully contemplate the needs of minor children if you have any. Blended families or those with children from a previous relationship may also find that DIY will forms do not adequately cover your concerns.
Making a DIY last will
So should you make your own will? If you have a fairly straightforward estate plan in mind, a do-it-yourself will can be an easy, inexpensive way to make your wishes known regarding the distribution of your assets after death.
No matter what you decide, however, it is vital that you make a last will as soon as possible—and keep it updated with changes in circumstances such as births, deaths, and divorces. When a person dies without a will, state law governing the distribution of the estate takes over, and the results may be a world away from what you would have desired.
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