A will is probably the single most important document that you will leave your loved ones. Many people, however, prepare their wills by using generic will templates purchased from a commercial website or supermarket. While these 'DIY wills' may be a fast and cheap way to generate a will, they are hardly substitutes for lawyer-prepared ones.
Today, we will take a brief look at the top 6 reasons why I believe it is wise to get professional help when preparing your will.
Reason #1: A will is a legal document, and there are terms and provisions that may be unfamiliar or confusing to the untrained eye. The same goes for the legal process in which the instructions in your will are carried out. A lawyer can help you clarify any ambiguities and avoid confusion, which can help you paint a clearer picture of what will happen after you pass away. Lawyers can also provide you with practical advice in electing your estate trustee (or ‘executor’) and guardian.
Reason #2: A lawyer can guide you on various ways to reduce estate liabilities. Estate liabilities, which include debts, estate administration tax (or ‘probate fees’), income tax, estate expenses, must first be deducted from your assets before they can be distributed to your beneficiaries. With the help of a professional, you can reduce these deductibles, thereby leaving more for your loved ones.
Reason #3: A lawyer can help you avoid your will being rendered invalid. For a will to be valid, it has to satisfy all formal requirements (such as, wet signatures from two witnesses who do not benefit under the will). A lawyer can help you make sure all requirements have been met.
Reason #4: Having a lawyer draft your will can reduce the risk of an estate dispute. It is not uncommon for a disgruntled family member to contend the validity of a will by claiming that the testator (the person who made the will) was under undue influence or that the testator did not have testamentary capacity. Some pitfalls, such as not leaving enough assets for your dependents to sustain their lifestyle, which can easily escalate to litigation, can also be avoided. By having a lawyer as your navigator and a witness to your will, such risks can be averted.
Reason #5: By working with a lawyer, you can benefit from the latest legal software that they use. Many lawyers who specialize in wills and estates are subscribed to professional will-drafting software created exclusively for lawyers. Although some features may vary, some of the latest software goes far beyond assisting lawyers to create wills faster. It can help lawyers and clients prepare for various scenarios that the client may face, help prevent any errors or mistakes a lawyer may make, and more.
Reason #6: If your lawyer offers a safekeeping service, keeping your will in the lawyer’s office will help protect your will from loss, destruction, or tampering. It will also reduce the risk of your power of attorney (or ‘POA’) being misused.
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list. There are many other benefits from retaining a lawyer, such as being able to receive practical advice on who to elect as your estate trustee (or ‘executor’) or guardian, being able to designate your lawyer as a go-to person for your executor who may be unfamiliar with the estate administration process, and more.
All in all, in preparing wills, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
This blog sets out a variety of materials relating to the law to be used for education and non-commercial purposes only. The Author(s) of this blog do not intend the blog to be a source of legal advice. Please retain and seek the advice of a lawyer and use your own good judgment before choosing to act on any information included in the blog. If you choose to rely on the materials, you do so entirely at your own risk.