There are websites that sell boilerplate legal documents. You fill in the blanks on some type of worksheet or template, and supposedly, you have a valid legal device in hand. Their offerings include DIY wills. We will look at the subject in this post.
Estate Planning Unpreparedness
Over the last several years, Caring.com has been conducting surveys that measure the estate planning preparedness of American adults. They have consistently found that about one third of people have wills or trusts. The rest have done absolutely nothing to prepare for an inevitable event.
Some of the people state that they know estate planning is important. However, they are not prepared because they do not know where to begin. If someone that feels this way comes across an ad for a DIY estate planning solution, they may go for it.
Is this a good idea? Some estate plan is probably better than none at all in most cases. However, an improperly constructed will can potentially cause more trouble than it’s worth.
Consumer Reports Research
A number of years ago, the highly regarded publication Consumer Reports decided to research the subject. People on their staff created three different simple wills using worksheets that they obtained from three of the most widely used legal document websites.
Subsequently, they engaged three legal professors to review the documents. They all came to the same conclusion: unintended negative consequences can come about when inexperienced people use these tools.
Ultimately, the publication advised readers to steer clear of DIY wills unless the situation is extremely simple and straightforward.
There was an improperly constructed estate plan case in the news a few years ago. An elderly Pennsylvania woman named Mercedes Goosely moved in with her son Joseph after a hospital stay. She owned her own home, but she moved in with Joseph because she needed living assistance.
She downloaded a durable power of attorney document off the internet to give Joseph the power to manage her affairs, and she got it notarized. He was under the impression that he had the legal right to act for her, and she was never returning to her home. Joseph put the house on the market, and he received a formal offer.
That would seem like a simple and straightforward situation, but there was a problem. His brother, William, was living in the home at the time. He initiated a legal action to fight the sale, claiming that Joseph did not have the right to act on behalf of his mother because of the nature of the durable power of attorney document.
As it turns out, unbeknownst to Mercedes, the document was a springing durable power of attorney. This type of power of attorney will only go into effect upon the incapacitation of the grantor. Since she had not been deemed incapacitated by a court, his claim had some merit.
Ultimately, the court rendered a decision in the case. After hearing all the evidence, they decided that Mercedes intended to give the power to Joseph immediately, so William lost the case.
The moral of the story is that DIY estate planning led to this mess. William would have realized he had no leg to stand on if the proper document had been executed in the first place.
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If you think about it logically, when you plan your estate, you are taking a profound step. Everything that you have accumulated throughout your life is going to be passed along to the people you love the most. There is no reason to roll the dice with a DIY estate plan.
We are here to help if you would like to work with a licensed Oklahoma City estate planning lawyer to put a proper plan in place. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, we can also be reached by phone at 405-843-6100.
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