Estate planning can be a very complex process involving numerous strategies and tools. At its most basic, however, estate planning starts with the creation of a Last Will and Testament. People often make the mistake of assuming that they need to have a large estate with complicated assets in order to utilize the services of an estate planning attorney to create an estate plan. The truth, however, is that even the creation of a simple Will should be done with the assistance of a professional estate planning attorney. At The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. we encourage clients to work with us when they create a Will to ensure that the document accomplishes what they want it to accomplish and that it provides the proper foundation for a more extensive estate plan down the road if one is needed.
In the 21st century just about anything can be found on the internet, including “fill-in-the-blank” legal forms such as a Last Will and Testament. If you are on a budget or have a relatively small estate you may be tempted to download one of these forms and use it to create your Will. There are a number of reasons why this may not be a wise decision. Probably the number one reason why you should not use a “fill-in-the-blank” Will form is that the document may not be valid, meaning it will not accomplish any of your intended goals.
Legal documents found on the internet may be out of date or lacking in crucial state specific language. Individual state law governs wills, trusts and estates. For this reason, a generic boilerplate Will form cannot be used in all states. All too often a single word that is left out can change the meaning of a term in a Will according to state law. Moreover, state laws are subject to change –and often do—from time to time. Generic internet forms frequently fail to keep up with the changes in the law, thereby making the form obsolete.
Finally, “fill-in-the-blank” forms commonly lack instructions. This is often because only an attorney may legally give legal advice. The result, however, is that people often fill out Will forms without fully understanding what they are doing. In the end, the form may be incomplete, ambiguous, or outright invalid. The money you save by using a generic form, therefore, may end up costing your intended beneficiaries much more down the road in the legal fees incurred trying to sort out the Will in court.