Why Is It a Bad Idea to Write My Own Will?
Many Florida residents find the prospect of writing a will or creating an estate plan to be overwhelming. And as is often the case with such tasks, people frequently think about taking shortcuts. This often leads to thinking like, “I don’t need to contact a lawyer, I can write my own will!”
Indeed, there are many companies that offer inexpensive software and online tools intended to help people make their own wills. But before you go down this DIY estate planning route, here are a few things to consider:
Estate Planning Is Never “One Size Fits All”
DIY wills typically rely on standardized forms that are not specifically tailored for your particular situation or the laws of the State of Florida. So even if the will itself is legally valid, it may contain crucial gaps that can affect the administration of your estate after you are gone and no longer able to clarify what you may have intended.
For instance, say you are married and your spouse has a child from a prior relationship. Even though the child is not yours, you still think of her as family and intend to include her as one of your “children” in your will. You then fill out a preprinted will saying you leave your estate to your children. Even if you think this includes the stepchild, unless the will contains specific language naming her as a beneficiary, the law assumes you only meant your biological or adopted children.
This is just one example of how an individual’s estate planning needs require some degree of customization beyond what a DIY solution can provide. So even if you think your estate planning needs are fairly simple, it is still a good idea to sit down with an attorney who can help ensure there are no critical gaps in your will or other estate planning documents.
Estate Planning Is Not Just About the Will
On that point, you also need to realize that simply writing a will does not constitute a complete estate plan. A will merely disposes of your probate assets. But many of us have non-probate assets that will not pass under our wills. Consider these two scenarios:
- You and your spouse purchased a home together. The deed lists you as “tenants by the entirety.” This means that when one of you dies, the other spouse automatically assumes sole ownership of the home; the deceased spouse’s share never goes through the probate process.
- You have a retirement account through your employer. When you die, that account is distributed in accordance with the terms of a beneficiary designation form kept on file with the plan administrator. Again, this asset does not pass under your will.
And beyond dealing with your assets, a complete estate plan should also include a power of attorney and health care directives, which address how to deal with unexpected situations that may arise while you are still alive. An experienced Fort Myers estate planning lawyer can advise you on these and many other subjected. Contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today to schedule a consultation.