The DIY lifestyle is all the rage as television shows and YouTube convince people that they can do practically anything on their own. This may be true for many things, but it should not be the case for estate planning. There are serious consequences for a mistake made during the estate planning process, even if the error was just an accident.
This was demonstrated by a recent case heard by the Florida Supreme Court. A woman filled out her will on a pre-printed form intended to enable her to do it without the help of a lawyer. However, the form was missing a key residuary clause that would have made other property that she acquired after signing the will subject to the terms of the will.
When the woman died, her nieces, not named in the original will, filed a lawsuit to try to obtain their share of the newly-acquired property. Her brother was named as the alternate beneficiary in the will, but only with respect to the property that was specifically spelled out in the document. The court ruled that the nieces could have a share of the new property even if that was not what the woman intended.
When issuing their decision, the judges specifically called attention to the dangers of DIY estate planning. According to one of the justices, the woman’s savings on the pre-printed form was far outweighed by the expense and hassle of the litigation that followed. In other words, there are costs to trying to save money in this area.
An estate planning attorney can help devise a will that can not only account for all of the property but can also factor in other contingencies in the future. Estate planning litigation can be expensive and time-consuming and some legal help in the area can help keep an estate both out of probate and prevent lawsuits. Dealing with the passing of a loved one is difficult enough without having to cope with legal hassles. It is better to spend on the appropriate legal help than to be exposed but a handful of dollars richer.