In the age of online access to court records and background checks, seeing the option to download an estate planning packet or will kit may seem the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to protect your beneficiaries when you die. And on the surface, this may appear true, but for families that go this route, many discover later anything but that. That initial security you feel knowing you finally have some kind of plan in place often unravels when put to the test.
The reality is that many DIY estate plan kits are cookie-cutter in nature, meaning they are not designed with the individual in mind but are general in nature, rarely addressing the specific needs of the individual using it or specific state law. Working with a highly trained Florida estate planning attorney ensures you can navigate complicated estate law and ensure you have the most up-to-date legal options available that actually comply with Florida law.
Below are additional pitfalls you can expect when using a DIY estate kit and not an experienced estate planning attorney.
Setting up a will through an online document service may have you believing everything is handled for your estate but was it done correctly? Ultimately, there is no way for you to know without taking a copy of it to an estate planning lawyer to review it. Why? Because the provider of your packet likely failed to explain what will happen to that document should you become incapacitated or die. It could cause more harm than good if it did not account for tax liabilities your beneficiaries may have to pay or how a loved one’s Medicaid eligibility becomes jeopardized because you left them a significant amount of assets.
Document services are not legal experts nor have the latest information on any new legislation that could affect your Florida estate plan. This is why an attorney is a worthwhile investment when creating an estate plan to meet your need to provide support to your family in the event of your death.
Filling out the many legal forms involved in estate planning does not capture the entire process which leads to your signing those documents. Estate planning requires analysis, goals, and forethought to create a strategy that best meets your needs. Using a DIY kit to establish your end-of-life wishes often leads to serious mistakes which are unknown until you are gone, and your family has to use the document to settle your estate. Many DIY kits do not provide signing instructions so the execution itself may fall short of Florida statutory requirements.
Many times, online forms and packets cannot create a comprehensive plan based on the unique circumstances of your family and life. This means there is property you may not have known to include, and now Florida probate will have to step in and settle the matter. This can be costly and expose your loved ones to additional tax liabilities they may not be able to afford.
As you are quickly ascertaining, estate planning is not appropriate as a DIY project. Unlike attorneys that can help you avoid a disastrous asset protection strategy, document services providing easy-to-fill-out forms rarely go into specifics of your estate or how their provided options can lead to potential issues later. These plans do not address updating accounts to avoid probate, funding a trust, asset protection strategies, medicaid planning, and more.
Below are the top three problems with using DIY will packets found on the internet and not a skilled Florida estate planning attorney:
If you opt to choose a will to outline how your estate should get distributed, it is vital to understand that your family will have to go through the probate process. This process allows creditors to file a claim for outstanding monies owed to them by the decedent and other parties to the case.
While even a will created by an attorney can still be contested, it is exceedingly rare since they take the time to consider the implications of any provisions you put in it. DIY wills do not have this level of care, and the likelihood of an ugly dispute between family members or creditors is greatly increased.
Improper Execution of the Will
The state of Florida is strict about the validity of wills. The execution of it is critical and must follow the law. Specifically, the following criteria are necessary:
Failing any of these steps will render it invalid, and the court will ultimately decide how your estate should get distributed, regardless of your wishes.
Belief That a Will is Sufficient
For most individuals seeking to set up an estate plan, a will is rarely enough to handle your remaining legal affairs after you die. What happens if you become incapacitated due to injury or illness? Typically, a DIY will does not include advanced health care directives or durable power of attorney. If you want your loved ones to avoid court costs and a drawn-out probate process, a will guarantees such an experience, not prevents it.
Worse, what if you have children and your will is found to be invalid, or your chosen guardian died, but you forgot to update a new choice before your own death? Now they could become wards of the state and cost your family thousands in legal fees trying to get them back.
Despite the promises of simple, no-hassle estate planning, the DIY approach is probably one of the worst choices you could make. The risk of mistakes occurring and potential long-term heartache that could ensue makes DIY kits more costly than a lawyer in the long run.
At The Legacy Law Firm, we help you avoid common mistakes that could put your estate in jeopardy. Call us today at (954) 999-9683 or contact us online to discuss your unique situation, learn more, and get started.
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