DIY Will: A Bad Idea?

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DIY willYou might be thinking about creating a will or other estate planning document. But, like most people, you’re probably concerned about the cost of hiring an attorney.

With new online services promising that you can create a will yourself in just a few steps, it can seem like an attorney isn’t necessary.

So is it worth it to hire an estate planning attorney?

A recent test done by Consumer Reports—a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and testing products for the benefit of the public—set out to answer that very question.

Consumer Reports tested three electronic DIY will services: LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, and Quicken WillMaker. Consumer Reports completed nine wills, then sent them to a professor of the Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock to judge the quality of the wills.

What did the Consumer Reports test find?

Using a service is better than having nothing at all. However, according to the article, “unless your needs are very simple—say, you want to leave everything to your spouse with no other provisions—none of them is likely to meet your needs.”

Consumer Reports find a number of problems with the DIY will services, including the following:

  • Outdated information: Two of the services included federal estate-tax limits that were outdated.
  • Inadequate customization: The services “rarely” referred to state law in detail. (This means that you could have problems down the road if your state has unique laws.)
  • Not enough flexibility: The services did not allow the user to distribute property the way they wanted to, often including requirements for certain provisions and failing to include others.
  • Too much flexibility: In two of the services, the user was allowed to edit the completed will or include anything in the special derivatives section. This means that you could add clauses that contradict other parts of your will.
  • Incomplete options: None of the three services tested included the option to include a special needs trust or pet trust. They also did not discuss “digital assets,” such as your Facebook profile and music library.

In all, Consumer Reports found that DIY services were useful for people with uncomplicated needs and for education. But for those who have more complex needs, an estate planning attorney is likely necessary.

If you are paying an hourly rate to an attorney instead of a flat fee, consider saving money by thinking about your provisions in advance and bringing that information to your attorney.

If you have questions about creating a will, including how much it costs, contact the Dayton, OH estate planning lawyers at Lovett & Lovett Co., LPA today.


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About George Lovett

George H. Lovett is a founding partner of Lovett & Lovett. Mr. Lovett brings years of experience and insight to each case that he handles. A certified expert by the Ohio State Bar Association in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law, Mr. Lovett uses his extensive knowledge to compassionately and effectively help clients and their families work through legal matters in the areas of Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, and Medicaid and Nursing Home Planning.George Lovett's Google+ Profile

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