Why it’s Important to Have a Lawyer Review Your Will
When it comes time to make a Last Will and Testament, many face a difficult choice. Pursue a low-cost option like a do-it-yourself (DIY) will platform or have one prepared by an attorney.
An estimated 60% of adults in the U.S. do not have a last will.
A DIY will can be an effective and convenient option. Yet a simple error can lead to a will being invalidated, devastating loved ones. Attorney prepared wills ensure that your interests are protected but can cost upwards of several thousands of dollars – falling outside of the budget for many.
But what if there was an option that paired affordability and convenience with professional legal assistance? Heirloom’s innovative and comprehensive service offers just that. You create your will with our intuitive platform, and it is reviewed by a licensed attorney to ensure it is valid. Let’s look at why it is important to have your last will reviewed by a lawyer.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that sets forth a person’s final wishes for things like their assets, liabilities, and beneficiaries. A last will is written while the will-maker is still alive. The will names a living person to serve as an executor. The executor oversees the probate process and distribution of assets.
An estimated 60% of adults in the U.S. do not have a last will. For those that die without a will, known as dying intestate, the state decides how property will be distributed. Most of the time the state’s distribution of property is contrary to what the deceased would have wanted. Failing to leave a will can also have significant tax consequences, reducing the size of the estate.
Can I Write My Own Will?
The short answer is yes. Anyone can write their own will without the help of a lawyer. Many rely on DIY platforms to create their wills. These platforms use software that generate wills based on information entered by the user.
One problem with most DIY platforms is that there is no accountability. Their terms and conditions will typically disclaim liability for any mistakes. When an attorney reviews a last will, however, he or she ensures that it complies with state law and that it is legally valid.
When a will does not comply with state law, a court can invalidate it. This means that your will is essentially thrown out and your estate will be distributed according to state law.
Reasons Why a Last Will May Be Invalidated
A last will can be invalidated for many reasons. Some common reasons include:
Not signed or signed in the wrong place
Generally, wills must be signed and signed properly to be valid and admitted to probate. In some states, a will may still be admitted if it meets the harmless error rule – there is “clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document” as their last will. In other states, the beneficiaries are out of luck.
Not signed in the presence of witnesses
Some states require that the will-maker sign his or her will in-front of the witnesses. In others, there is no requirement to be in the same room.
Two or more witnesses did not sign the will with the will-maker present
The number of witnesses required to sign a will varies by state. Most states require at least two, others require three. In some states the witnesses must sign in front of the will-maker. Other states like New York require witnesses to sign within 30 days of observing the will-maker sign.
Witnesses do not meet requirements
In most states a witness must be over the age of 18. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, in Texas, witnesses must be over the age of 14.
Many states require that witnesses be disinterested, meaning that they will not inherit anything under your will. Other states have laws that prevent the executor of your will from being a witness.
Not including provisions required under state law
Each state has its own laws about what should be included in a will. An attorney licensed to practice in your state will ensure that all state legal requirements are met.
As a general matter, your will should include:
A clear description of who gets what
A statement that this your Last Will and Testament
The name of the persons responsible for probating your will, called the executor
A licensed attorney will review your will to ensure that all conditions have been met and applicable laws followed.
Real-Life Examples of Invalidated DIY Wills
There are countless examples of DIY wills being invalidated for simple mistakes. Here are two real-life examples:
A comma can change intent
Jane wants to ensure her estate is divided equally among her three children. In her will, she writes ‘I wish to divide my estate between Peter, Sally, and John. However, contrary to her intent, and due to the comma being in a certain place, this is interpreted as Peter and Sally having a greater share than John.
Proley uses a DIY form to create her will. The form has a space for her signature and two witnesses on the bottom of the first page. The witnesses sign in the correct spots but Proley does not. Instead, she follows the instructions and folds the will into thirds. The middle third on the back side serves as the document’s spine. On the spine it says, “Will of _______.” Proley signs her name on this line. Her will was denied since in Pennsylvania wills must be signed at the “sequential end.” See In re Proley’s Estate, 422 A.2d 136 (Pa. 1980).
Witnesses not present
Wayne signs a will while in a hospital bed in front of two witnesses. The witnesses then take the will out into the hallway to sign it. Wayne’s line of sight is blocked by the wall and his will is invalidated under Georgia law because the witnesses did not sign in his presence. See Newton v. Palmour, 266 S.E.2d 208 (Ga. 1980).
When it comes to creating your Last Will and Testament peace of mind is everything. At Heirloom, we take pride in offering our customers affordable access to quality legal services.