After reading “Do YOU Need a Will,” you might think: “I do, but it is expensive to have a lawyer do it. I can do it online much cheaper and easier.” Standard form Wills found in big box retailers and online websites are a tempting alternative to having a lawyer draft your Will. While a “do it yourself” mentality is generally a good thing, there are several reasons why you should not “go it alone” when making your will.
It may not be as “cheap” as you think.
A basic estate plan consists of a Will, Power of Attorney and Medical Directive. On some internet legal document services, a basic estate plan for a married couple (i.e. two basic estate plans) can cost nearly $350. There are many law firms (including Norris Legal Atlanta Law Group, LLC) that will prepare basic estate plans for a flat fee not much more than the cost of online document companies. Plus, you get a real lawyer too! (see below).
In addition, once you build a relationship with a law firm, most firms charge little to make minor updates or changes to a plan that they helped build. In the event that you have to use internet legal twice, you probably will have spent more or the same as if you have just used a real law firm in the first place.
Not to brag but um…we did go to law school.
For some reason, more and more people are adopting the belief that anyone can draft a Will. Unfortunately, most people do not realize that there are numerous Will formats to choose from. Just as one shoe does not fit every person, there is no one Will that fits every situation. Many situations, for example, require simple trusts that documents from the internet simply do not provide. In other words, preparing a Will is much more complex than online legal document companies would have you believe.
It doesn’t take a long surf across most online legal companies to realize that they are “not a law firm.” Those internet companies provide the documents and leave the legal work to you. Too often, we see invalid Wills because execution requirements are not met. We see poor planning where a family member is inadvertently omitted or property that needs to be in trust is instead left outright. Online legal companies make the mistake of convincing you that one Will form fits all families. There are numerous considerations when making your Will and there are numerous requirements that have to be satisfied for your Will to be valid. You only get one shot at dying with a valid Will and having a real lawyer to help you get it right is simply irreplaceable.
What happens if something goes wrong?
Have you ever heard of an online guarantee from an internet legal company? It’s a guarantee that the internet companies will pay you (or your family) a small amount of money (say $50,000) if your internet Will is held to be invalid by a Court of competent jurisdiction. Unfortunately, by the time your family receives said $50,000, the damage will have already been done. Plus, it is likely that the resulting damage will be way more than $50,000.
With an invalid Will, your family will almost certainly need significant legal counsel to sort out the resulting free-for-all over “who gets what.” Even worse, it may be impossible to put a dollar figure on the damage of failing to create trusts or even more so, omitting an intended beneficiary altogether! Real law firms, on the other hand, have millions of dollars in professional liability coverage; not a mere $50,000 guarantee. Moreover, it is much less likely that a real law firm is even going to mess up in the first place. While $50,000 seems like a lot of money, that is one expensive, embarrassing headache.
Your Will may be the most important document you ever sign.
Most of us work our entire lives to build our estate and most of us build our estate so that our families and future generations can have security. As a result, our Will is the most important document that we will ever sign. Our Will is the document that will create the security for our families and future generations that we have worked our entire lives to build.
While many families may try to save money by making their own clothes, clipping coupons, or doing their own car maintenance, messing up your oil change or having home-made clothes tear up does not have serious consequences. On the other hand, the consequences of not having a Will or having an invalid Will are indescribable. You won’t be there to “fix” what can’t be undone.
Having a valid Will with a secure plan is the only way to make sure that all of your lifetime goals are accomplished. It is simply too risky to do it yourself. While it may be easy to pinch pennies on the little things, we never worry about cost when it comes to our family’s protections. We pay for security systems, locks on our doors, and safe tires for our cars. Similarly, your Will is a security mechanism that secures your family for generations to come, and at the end of the day, what is there that could be more important than that?
Patrick R. Norris, Norris Legal Atlanta Law Group, LLC
Thank you for reading this article. The information contained in this article is for discussion purposes only. The information contained in this article is not legal advice upon which you should act and simply reading this article does not make you a client of Norris Legal Atlanta Law Group, LLC, or any other law firm. Thank you again.