QUESTION: Should You Use A “Do-It-Yourself” Estate Planning Service? Many people ask whether it is a good idea to use a DIY estate planning service to create an estate plan (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney). As attorneys, we might seem biased when answering this question. However, the American Bar Association, as a part of its discussion in Do It Yourself Estate Planning, gave the following example, which is compelling:
“A New Jersey resident opted to purchase — surely at a nominal cost — a Will form kit. He carefully handwrote his intended dispositions into the form document. He did not have it properly witnessed. Undoubtedly believing he had completed his “simple Will” properly, he signed it and then apparently committed suicide. His heirs, however, eventually paid for his efforts. In the ensuing lawsuit (Matter of Will of Feree), a New Jersey trial court struggled to find a way to interpret and give effect to his handwritten additions to the form. Under New Jersey probate law, the language on the pre-printed form was not admissible because the Will was not properly signed by Mr. Feree (most states require a Will to be signed in the presence of two witnesses, a few even require three witnesses). The Court’s effort to salvage Mr. Feree’s work — and the ensuing trip to the New Jersey appellate court — almost certainly cost the family tens of thousands of dollars or more. At least Mr. Feree never saw that enormous expenditure — he passed away believing he had saved money.”
ANSWER: If you want you make sure your intent is carried out with as little cost as possible, contact an experienced estate planning attorney to implement an estate plan tailored to your needs and concerns.
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