If you are thinking about creating your own will, you may feel a little uneasy about the process. After all, shouldn’t you seek a lawyer’s help with such an important legal document?
The answer depends on your situation. Every year, consumers bypass lawyers and create their own wills, powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents with the help of online tools and books. As one might expect, some experts do not like this do-it-yourself approach and say it breeds mistakes, but it might be an appropriate choice for some consumers. When it comes to legal issues, one size never fits all.
Will templates found in books or online and those generated by estate planning computer software are specifically designed to cover only the most basic of estate planning needs. Such forms are also created to be as simple as possible in order to comply with the laws of all 50 states. Just as everyone’s fingerprints are different, so too are everyone’s estate planning needs. What may work for you and your family could be different from what may work for your coworkers, your family members, or your neighbors.
Many people wonder what the difference is between utilizing online options and seeking advice from an estate planning attorney. The job of the online method is to deliver a product that the customer requests. An estate planning attorney’s job is to assess a client’s circumstances, make recommendations based on those circumstances, and create a plan. If you know what your situation requires in terms of language and document creation, then the do-it-yourself model might work for you. In fact, in the state of Colorado a “holographic” (handwritten) will is legal. Be aware, however, that this is not true for all states and additional research is required if this is the path that you choose.
You may want to talk to a lawyer if any of the following describe your situation:
- You have questions about your will or other options for leaving your property.
- You expect to leave a large amount of assets which may be subject to estate tax unless you engage in additional planning.
- You own properties in different states which would require probate in each location.
- You have a blended family and want to make sure that assets pass according to your wishes.
- Your situation is complex and you are unsure of your options.
Andrea L. Blackwelder, CFP®, ChFC and Joseph D. Clemens, CFP®, EA are the founders and partners of Wisdom Wealth Strategies. Their shared passion is simple: to bring financial empowerment, understanding, and peace-of mind to people who wish to improve their financial future, build wealth for their families, and achieve financial independence. Click here to find out more about how you can work with Wisdom Wealth Strategies.
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