There seems to be a misconception that only people with a lot of assets need to have a will. That is not true. When you’re starting your financial career, as soon as you begin accumulating any type of assets, you should have a will made. There may not be much to that will at first, but in the event something happens to you unexpectedly, your loved ones will thank you.
So now we all know that we ALL need a will. But did you know you have options when it comes to creating a will? The do-it-yourself route is definitely one option. Finding an attorney to draw up your will is another. If you think your will is pretty straightforward, it may be more appealing to take this task on yourself. But is it worth it? Let’s weigh the pros and cons, and look at the basics of a do-it-yourself will.
What Is a Do-It-Yourself Will?
In the age of the internet, you can find out how to do a lot of things. A do-it-yourself will is just as it sounds – it’s a will that you draw up yourself for your assets without the help of an attorney. There are online services available that can help you draw up your own will. You can download the necessary forms, make sure you have all of the basics covered, upload your information, and you’re all set.
It sounds easy, but what do you actually gain from drafting a will by yourself?
Pros of a Do-It-Yourself Will
Pro #1: Save Money on Lawyer Fees
Attorneys don’t work for free. There are costs involved with having a professional will made. It’s not cut and dry what the cost will be, either. You could end up paying a flat fee for the will, or the lawyer could charge hourly (typically $150/hour and up is a safe assumption). All in, a will could end up costing you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of a thousand or more.
Don’t get me wrong, some online sources to create a will yourself STILL charge you a fee, but it’s another safe assumption that it will be less than an in-person lawyer.
Pro #2: Saves Time
Choosing the DIY method to create your will can save you a handful of time upfront – as long as you’re prepared. Assuming you have all of the necessary information on hand, using an online service could be as quick as a few minutes to maybe an hour to complete. You don’t have to worry about making an appointment or making the trip to a lawyer’s office.
However, the time saved upfront by creating a will by yourself could be given back tenfold if the will fails to encompass all the necessary areas, or is full of mistakes. That leads us to some of the cons associated with DIY wills.
Cons of a Do-It-Yourself Will
Con #1: Could Cost Your Family Time & Money
If you’re going to have a will made, even if it’s by yourself, you want to make sure it’s going to be fulfilled the way you intended. Wills and the estate process can get complicated. If your DIY will has any mistakes in it, you could be costing your loved ones some serious headaches, time, and money to straighten everything out.
If your estate must be probated because your will was improperly executed, this again could cost your heirs time and money before they’ll be able to receive or access their inheritance.
Con #2: State Laws Aren’t Always Considered
Most states have specific rules to make sure that a will is valid. Using an online site may leave you prone to missing some of the state-specific rules and end up not being a valid will in your state. A few examples of state specific rules are the amount of witnesses necessary, or whether or not the will needs to be notarized.
Again, making sure not only that you HAVE a will, but that you have a VALID will is essential. Just printing out your online will does not mean it fits the criteria for your state.
Con #3: It Could Be Too Simple
Unfortunately, certain tax laws and solutions are not necessarily straight forward. If you’re worried about the tax implications of your estate, a DIY will could potentially fall short of the necessary tax considerations. It certainly COULD be sufficient, but the odds of running into tax issues is higher when creating a will by yourself.
So What Should You Do?
For certain younger individuals, your financial situation may be simple enough that a DIY will is enough. You may not have too many assets on your balance sheet at the moment, but you want to make sure that what you DO have is taken care should anything happen.
However, as you continue to grow your assets and accumulate more, visiting with an attorney is probably the smart move. ESPECIALLY if you have children. Caring for your dependents and family members is not something to leave to chance. Taking the time and money to have a proper will made is the right call.
If you work with a financial planner, talk to them and see what they think about your current level of estate planning. EVERYONE needs an estate plan, not just those who pay estate taxes. Your financial planner should be able to determine if your situation is simple enough for a DIY will.
If don’t have a financial planner, the team over at Mullooly Asset Management would be happy to speak with you. Click here to visit our website and schedule a time to talk to one of our team members.