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Cheap Wills, Expensive Problems

Posted on: August 13th, 2015
estate planning problemA discounted mindset in estate planning often leads to costly consequences. Individuals and couples interested in saving money when creating their wills might resort to online or Do-It-Yourself options. These have consistently proven to be poor planning tools over the years and have become rife with complications in recent years:
  • Traditional v. Non-traditional. Family structures are not the same as they were a decade or two ago. The number of unmarried senior couples has risen dramatically, younger couples delay or avoid marriage while raising children, and LGBT couples faced unique estate planning challenges before Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriages legal across the United States in June 2015. One-size-fits-all will templates are simply insufficient in addressing modern family structures that have distinctly different goals and needs.
  • More assets. The National Association of Realtors reported a nearly 30% percent surge in vacation home sales in 2013. As more Americans are acquiring assets, various legal issues could surface. How are individuals and couples holding title to multiple properties? Are out-of-state assets adequately addressed in estate plans? Cheap will providers might have little to no knowledge about the tax requirements or probate matters that could affect assets in multiple jurisdictions. 
  • Legislation changes. State and federal laws are not concrete. In the past year alone on the federal level, estate tax portability rules changed, same-sex marriages became legal in every state, and a new tax on family businesses is being discussed by lawmakers. Most DIY will providers are unable to keep templates current with legislative changes, and when they revise templates to incorporate these changes, the provisions might not be suitable to the testator’s unique circumstances. Additionally, it is unclear whether and to what extent online discounted will services have a working knowledge of current case law.

Services which provide discounted drafting of wills and other estate planning documents affect families across the world. Outside of the United States, the United Kingdom recently reported an estimated 38,000 families experienced extended probate due to problems that surfaced from the use of inadequate DIY wills. Individuals who have used any type of template-driven estate planning service should schedule a review of the document with an estate planning attorney in their area. It might be possible to amend the will, or revoke it and replace it with a properly drafted up-to-date version.

By Attorney Samantha Reichle

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