You know it’s time to start thinking about making a will. You’re considering one of the many “do-it-yourself” online options. They seem very thorough and professional. It seems like the way to go. After all, you do your taxes online every year, and that seems to be working out.
Besides, you’ve got a pretty uncomplicated life. Maybe you have a home, a car, a few bank accounts and a 401(k). Maybe you even have a couple of grown kids, but you’ll just split everything between them. One of them will take your dog. Why spend money on an estate planning attorney?
Yes, there are some benefits to an online will
Certainly, writing your own will using an online program is fast and inexpensive. At most, it might cost you $100.00. If you carefully follow the instructions, it can be legally binding. But should you do this?
An online will (assuming that it’s done correctly) is likely better than not having anything. Maybe you’re about to embark on a solo hike along the Appalachian Trail and you want to make sure you have a will in place in case something goes horribly wrong. If that’s the case, an online will or even a handwritten will can give you some peace of mind on your trip.
Most people need more than a will
However, it’s best to make that just your starting point. Most people benefit from more than a will. For example, many documents in an estate plan address not what will happen when a person dies but if they’re no longer able to speak for themselves.
In an advance directive, for example, you can specify your wishes for end-of-life care, resuscitative measures and other issues that could come up if you become seriously injured or ill. With powers of attorney (POA) documents, you can specify who will ensure that your financial obligations and medical needs are taken care of if you can’t. A simple living trust can help your assets pass directly to your beneficiaries without going through probate.
Say that you decide you need “just a will.” The wishes you detail may be very clear to you, but could they be open to interpretation or thoroughly confusing to others (including a court)? Have you considered every possible scenario that could occur?
Most people can’t do that on their own. That’s why it’s always wise to have experienced legal guidance regardless of how simple or complex your estate plan turns out to be.