Oftentimes, automated DIY legal document service providers such as LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Nolo Press claim that preparing a California will is easy. These services are inexpensive and designed to take less than 15 minutes to complete. Plus, they proclaim that the document you create with them is legally valid. However, despite the perceived convenience and efficiency of these types of services, completing a fill-in-the-blank will without some type of professional help may not be in your best interest.
The Downsides of a Fill-in-the-Blank Will
Most fill-in-the-blank wills are “one size fits all”. Unfortunately, these generic wills are not custom-tailored to fit every person’s individual needs. In fact, individuals rarely share similar circumstances when it comes to estate planning. Thus, 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 their spouse, child or beneficiary.
Additionally, people who use fill-in-the-blank will forms are often left with incorrectly worded documents that are ultimately executed incorrectly! Combined, these deficiencies usually result in an invalid will. Furthermore, heirs and beneficiaries will often contest unclear or contradictory wills. However, in California, a testator must execute a will in front of two witnesses who sign the document.
Fill-in-the-Blank Wills Are NOT Recommended
According to the non-profit agency Consumer Reports after evaluating online services such as LegalZoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer, most fill-in-the-blank will products and services do not meet the majority of people’s legal needs. Furthermore, 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. However, you may also be subjecting your estate to improper distribution. Whether you have a small or large estate, hiring a professional to prepare your will or trust is money wisely spent. That being said, 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. Additionally, he created 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 properly signed. As a result, the court could not enter the will into probate because of its inconsistencies. In settling the estate, the court ordered equal distribution to all the decedent’s children. However, this included the child our client’s father had intended to disinherit.
We never recommend fill-in-the-blank wills. Unfortunately, we are commonly tasked with trying to settle messy probate estates for which decedents created wills without basic professional help. Oftentimes, such estates are 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?
Luckily, you do not need to hire an expensive attorney to draft your will. In fact, attorneys use the same legal software as registered document preparation assistants when preparing estate planning documents for their clients.
If you have had multiple marriages, own a business or real estate in multiple locations, have extensive investments, an incapacitated loved one, or minor child, you should definitely consider hiring a professional to draft your last will and testament.
A People’s Choice is Here For You
Hire a legal document assistant professional the “first time” you draft your will. Doing so will leave you with peace of mind that your estate will be distributed according to your wishes. 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.
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.