22 May DIY Wills
The COVID19 pandemic turned our world upside down. People face new anxieties concerning health, family, and economics. Unfortunately, we also face a new crop of sales or fundraising gimmicks maximizing our fears.
The sales tactics for DIY (“Do-it-Yourself”) wills walk a fine line between timely and inappropriate. I have encountered fundraisers advertising websites for DIY wills so that individuals can include their charity in the target’s estate plan. While, certain online services boast an ability to personalize your will or comply with legal requirements in your state, out firm advises clients against DIY wills for a few reasons.
Your will may have unintended consequences. Laws governing testamentary documents affect the interpretation of your will. Unless you, or your software, can know and understand those laws, you may draft a will that leaves property to unanticipated persons.
A will might state “in equal shares to my brothers and sisters.” Are those siblings whole-blood siblings? Did you intend to leave property to a half-sibling? A half-sibling is treated the same as a whole-blood sibling in South Carolina, and that law would determine who takes under your will. Maybe you intended to include step-siblings, who are not treated the same under the law.
Other mistakes or mishaps could include improper execution. In South Carolina, a will must be signed by two impartial witnesses. If one witness is a beneficiary of the will, that individual does not take under the will, even if that is counter to the drafter’s intent. A DIY will may name and investments too specifically, or fail to name certain property specifically enough. Without certain language, the will may not plan for the death of a beneficiary, which could potentially disinherit a grandchild in some states.
At Hyde Law Firm, drafting a will is a part of an estate planning process. To us, this means getting to know you, considering your entire estate, assets and debts, and considering the unexpected.
During these uncertain times, don’t rush into a will. Attorneys can still talk with you over the phone and wait to execute documents in person when you are ready to do so. Relying on websites or software may not provide you the certainty you need. Rest with the piece of mind that the document you create will effectively transfer your property as you wish.