With the advent of Legal Zoom and other online legal services, it is undoubtedly tempting to try one of these services to do your estate planning. Creating an will online will be cheaper than hiring an attorney to draft a will for you. But, to copy an old adage, you get what you pay for. Just because it’s cheaper upfront, doesn’t mean it won’t prove more expensive in the long run when your heirs have to work with a defective document. Let's take look at a few of the potential pitfall with online wills.
Wills Must Follow State Requirements
Wills are state specific, which means that a will which follows the requirements in Idaho may not be valid in North Carolina. For example, in North Carolina, a will must be signed in the presence of two disinterested witnesses, include a self-proving affidavit and be signed in the presence of a notary. Each state has different rules, and your will needs to comply with state law in your state. An online will is not going to be signed in the presence of an attorney to ensure all state-specific requirements and formalities are met.
An Estate Plan Goes Beyond a Will
Estate planning is more comprehensive than just filling out a form on the internet. Each client has different assets, and your beneficiary designations/asset titling needs to work with your will. A will does not govern assets that pass by beneficiary designation, the named beneficiary on a 401(k) or life insurance controls. If you have minor children this is especially important, as minors cannot inherit property outright without court oversight in the form of a guardianship. Working with a lawyer ensures that your beneficiary designations are correct and incorporate the trusts set up in your will to avoid a minor inheriting property outright.
An Attorney's Experience
Lastly, an online will is not going to think through the future like an attorney. When we assist clients with estate planning, we think ahead to not just a document that will work their current family situation, but one that addresses additional kids, the death of the named executor/ trustee and other contingencies. A well thought out will could last you several years and endure through various life events.
Unless a North Carolina estate planning attorney looks at your documents, you are gambling whether the document is going to be valid and will distribute your assets according to your wishes.