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Online Will Creates Big Problem in Florida Estate

Posted on: April 17th, 2014
draft willAlthough Ann Aldrich had executed a Will, the courts decided part of her estate will be governed by Florida intestacy law and not according to her wishes. 

Why? The Aldrich’s Will was created using an online form. Without the counsel of an estate planning attorney, the woman had found and completed an online estate planning template for her Will. Drafting a Will without an attorney may cause serious irreversible consequences. In this particular case, which unfortunately sets an example for Florida residents, the online Will lacked a residuary clause.

A residuary clause would have encompassed assets and property accumulated after the Will was executed or otherwise not mentioned in the Will. Since the Will lacked this clause, the decedent’s wishes for distributing the property were only applied to assets specifically bequeathed to named persons in the Will. The Florida court ruled that the property not expressly dealt with in the Will is to be distributed according to the state laws of intestacy; these laws are used when an individual does not have a Will. Although the woman had taken the time to create a Will, the courts must treat part of the estate as if none exists.

This case showcases the real-life consequences of DIY estate planning. Without retaining an attorney, the following are possible:
  1. Testator’s wishes not preserved.
  2. Extra attorney and court fees.
  3. Litigation delays.

Individuals in every state can help prevent these consequences by hiring an estate planning lawyer. Not only will a lawyer ensure a complete and valid Will is created, but he or she can create a comprehensive estate plan to cover possible incapacity, avoid probate, and protect assets.
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