5 Reasons to Avoid An Online WillSeptember 2021 | Frank Buquicchio, Esq.
People are often drawn to the ease of creating an online Will as opposed to seeking the guidance of an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney. Before you go down this road yourself, read on for five reasons to avoid having your Will created online.
1. Proper Execution: Wills are formal documents that should be executed in a serious and formal ceremony. If your Will is not executed pursuant to state law requirements, it is likely to not be admitted to probate – meaning your wishes may not be followed.
2. Difficult to Administer: Wills are complex documents. For a Will to be admissible in court, it needs to include language that effectively grants power to the chosen Executor. All too often, an Executor is not necessarily granted rights to fully manage the estate and fulfill obligations. People sometimes forget to also name an alternate Executor, which can cause problems when the original choice is unable or unwilling to administer the Will at the time of death.
3. Easily Contested Gifts: A Will should be specific as to bequeathed items or gifts. For instance, we have seen cases where a parent leaves their house to their child but fails to specify instructions as to the contents of the house, the surrounding property, insurance, taxes and/or property maintenance. Unless these items are clearly outlined in a Will, others may attempt to make claim and cause unnecessary headaches, including added legal fees and delays.
4. Protection of Assets: Experienced elder law attorneys understand the inner workings of complicated government benefit laws. A Will cannot simply state who receives what as there may be a serious risk to a family member losing important and essential government benefits without the proper Will provisions. Therefore, it is best to consult with an experienced and reputable elder law attorney.
Another example is providing for a minor child. Without appropriate provisions in your Will, your minor child will receive their inheritance at age 18 (in New York State). Most people would probably agree that handing an 18-year-old a significant inheritance is likely not the most prudent plan.
5. “Cookie Cutter” Wills: Many websites unfortunately offer a template for completing an online Will that may not take into consideration a variety of important issues (i.e., your state’s laws regarding inheritance, long-term care, trusts, and other matters). To be compliant, you should understand these areas and the language needed to ensure that your wishes are met.
While online Wills can seem appealing, they can also cause undue stress for your family members at the time of your death. It is important to consult with an experienced elder law estate planning attorney to ensure your Will is properly drafted and executed so that your wishes can be fully carried out.
If you have any questions about the information discussed in this article, please contact your Legal Service Plan’s National Legal Office at 800-292-8063.