For many people, making a DIY will is the beginning and end of their estate planning process. Most people who think about estate planning know they need a will, but don’t know how to hire a lawyer to make one or do not think that they need a lawyer to create one. There are different DIY will kits and forms that you can buy or download, and you may assume that using one of these is going to be sufficient to dictate who should inherit your property.
The problem is, a DIY will may not be the best approach to take to estate planning. When you create your own will at home without the proper legal advice, you have no way of knowing if the will that you create is going to be valid or not.
Laws on wills differ from state to state, and laws evolve. This means even if you buy a kit or download a sample will, there is no guarantee that you can use this kit or sample to make a will that is going to be valid and enforceable.
Even if you do manage to make a will that can be probated, a will may not be the only estate planning tool that you should have used. You could miss out on important legal protections and undermine your ability to leave a strong legacy and care for you family after you are gone.
You should not take chances when it comes to something as important as estate planning. Instead of making a DIY will, you should consult with Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC for help in creating an estate plan that will actually work for you and your family.
5 Signs that a DIY Will Isn’t a Sufficient Estate Plan For You
There are a lot of reasons why you do not want to create a DIY will. A lawyer is the only one who can give you legal advice, and you miss out on that advice when you try to handle the estate planning process on your own. You could make mistakes that are not discovered in time to correct them, or could make your estate vulnerable to estate tax. The many downsides of a DIY will apply to everyone who is thinking ahead to the future.
In some circumstances, however, limiting your estate planning to creating a DIY will is going to be especially damaging. This can happen if you have special circumstances that create a substantial risk of problems after your death.
It can be hard to know if you have a situation where making a DIY will is going to be more detrimental than for the average person, but five key signs that suggest it would be especially bad for you to make a DIY will include the following:
- You are leaving money to a child who will likely be under 18 at the time you pass away: Kids under 18 cannot inherit directly. If you make a DIY will, the court might need to appoint a guardian for the money you leave a child. The child will also get handed a no-strings-attached inheritance at 18. You can make better arrangements through the use of trusts.
- At least one of your heirs or beneficiaries have special needs: When you give money to someone who is disabled, the money or property you give them could disqualify them from means-tested government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Making plans to protect access to benefits through the use of a special needs trust can be a far better choice than using a DIY will to make a gift that could result in a benefits loss.
- At least one of you heirs or beneficiaries is really irresponsible with money: If your loved one who you are leaving money to is not responsible, they could lose the money quickly. You can prevent this from happening through the use of a special type of trust called a spendthrift trust. You will not be able to protect your irresponsible loved one from wasting an inheritance if you just make a DIY will.
- Your family members really do not get along: If you have family members who are feuding, this could increase the chances someone will contest a will. If your family members start fighting over whether a will is valid or not, the probate process is going to become lengthier and more expensive than normal. You can reduce the chances of a will contest by using special clauses like a no contest clause. You could also opt to work with an experienced attorney to use other legal processes for the transfer of your assets after death so you eliminate risks of someone contesting a will.
- Your estate is going to be subject to estate tax: Both Vermont and the federal government charge estate tax when your estate exceeds a certain value. If you are potentially going to lose a portion of your wealth to estate tax, you need to make sure you talk with an experienced attorney about how you can reduce the tax liability triggered by your death.
Getting Help from An Estate Planning Lawyer
Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC can provide you with assistance in going beyond a DIY will to make an estate plan that actually works. Join us for a free seminar to find out about the estate planning process or give us a call at (802) 879-7133 or contact us online to talk with a Vermont estate planning lawyer for help.