• How a Fill-in-the-Blank Will Went Wrong

How a Fill-in-the-Blank Will Can Go Wrong

When considering your estate planning, several automated do-it-yourself legal document service providers such as LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Nolo Press want you to believe that preparing a California will is easy. Often these services are inexpensive, designed to take less than 15 minutes to complete, and proclaim that the document you create is legally valid. Though this type of service may be efficient and cheap, completing a fill-in-the-blank will without some type of professional help may not be in your best interest. Read on to learn more.

The Downsides of a Fill-in-the-Blank Will

Most fill-in-the-blank wills are one size fit all. Generic wills purchased online or in stores are not custom tailored to fit a person’s needs. It is rare for strangers to share similar circumstances when it comes to estate planning. Fill-in-the-blank wills often fail to address new estate planning laws, taxes, the guardianship of children, and contingencies in the event the testator is predeceased by his/her spouse, child or beneficiary.

A common problem people have when creating a will using a fill-in-the-blank will form is that the will is incorrectly worded for their particular circumstances. To make matters worse, these types of wills are often executed incorrectly as well. These deficiencies often make the will invalid. Wills that are unclear or contain contradictory statements often result in will contests by the heirs and beneficiaries. In California, a testator must execute his or her will in front of two witnesses who also must sign the document. In addition, people who buy fill-in-the-blank wills often do not properly address the contents of their entire estate.

“Our father’s fill in the blank will he did through Legal Zoom was wrong and his estate ended up going to people in the family he intended to disinherit.” T. Zucker
“We learned spending a little money for professional help would have avoided the problems our dad created trying to prepare a will on his own.” T. Zucker
“Our dad’s estate was ultimately distributed as if he had not made a will at all. His wishes were disregarded because of legal technicalities that were avoidable.” T. Zucker

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Fill-in-the-Blank Will Not Recommended

According to Consumer Reports, after evaluating online services such as LegalZoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer, the non-profit agency concluded that most fill-in-the-blank will-writing products and services do not meet the majority of people’s legal needs. Consumer Reports advised that people with small and simple estates would likely benefit from using alternative hands-on professional services.

You may think you are saving money by completing a fill-in-the-blank-will. In retrospect however, you may be subjecting your estate to having your estate distributed in a way that is different than what you intended. Whether you have a small or large estate, hiring a professional to prepare your will or trust is money wisely spent. However,  you don’t need to hire an attorney or spend thousands of dollars for this process!

A client recently contacted us to probate their father’s estate. The client’s father had used LegalZoom’s online will service to create his will with the intent of disinheriting one of his wayward children. Unfortunately the will that he prepared online was not in proper form nor was it properly signed. As a result, the probate court could not enter the will into probate because of the inconsistencies it contained. In settling the estate, the court ordered the estate be equally distributed to all the decedent’s children, including the one our client’s father had intended to disinherit.

We never recommend fill-in-the-blank wills. Too often we have ended up faced with picking up the pieces, trying to settle messy probate estates of decedents that tried to create a will without basic professional help. These situations have sadly often resulted in estates being distributed in a way completely opposite of the decedent’s intentions simply because the will was improperly prepared and/or executed. 

Should You Hire an Attorney to Draft Your Will?

You do not need to hire an attorney to draft your will. Attorneys use legal software when preparing estate planning documents for their clients. If you have had multiple marriages, own a business or real estate in multiple locations, have an incapacitated loved one, minor child, or extensive investments, you definitely should consider hiring a professional to draft your last will and testament. Utilizing a fill-in-the-blank will is often a recipe for disaster. At A People’s Choice, we use the same software many attorneys use! The contents of your will we prepare for you will depend on the complexity of your estate and your designated beneficiaries. 

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about our estate planning services. We can help you prepare any will or trust you may need to make sure your estate is properly administered to your beneficiaries.

As illustrated in our story above, if you use a fill-in-the-blank will or do-it-yourself online will service and something goes wrong, your loved ones may suffer from years of probate litigation. The worse case scenario is that your estate can be distributed to the wrong people. Don’t risk your estate being distributed in a way that is contrary to your wishes and desires. Hire a legal document assistant professional the “first time” to draft your will. Doing so will leave you with peace of mind that your estate will be distributed according to your wishes. Contact us today to learn more about our estate planning services. We have experienced staff available to answer your questions. Have an emergency? We can often prepare signature ready estate documents in as little as an hour. Call us at 800-747-2780 to see how we can help.

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A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your will and other estate planning documents instead of an expensive attorney!

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By | 2018-01-18T15:46:43+00:00 July 19th, 2016|Estate Planning|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.

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