We’ve all seen countless do-it-yourself projects on platforms like Youtube, Pinterest and Tik Tok; from home renovation to cooking, wedding decor, “life hacks”, construction projects, and everything in between, the internet has us all believing that we can do just about anything without the help of professionals. The world has become inundated with accessible information, and consequently many people are turning away from what they see as unnecessary expenses in favour of cheap, simple and fast alternatives. This shift towards cash-saving DIY projects has resulted in the rise of the DIY at-home will kit. These kits are advertised as a free, or otherwise inexpensive, alternative to drafting a final will and testament with a lawyer. Often, the format is fill-in-the blanks or completing checklists– a time-saving, hassle-free process. However, the time and money that is saved utilizing a DIY can, and often does, end up costing the beneficiaries of the will when it is being executed. Making even the simplest mistake while utilizing a DIY will kit can end up causing a myriad of problems for your loved ones while additionally draining funds from your estate. The personal and professional touch of a lawyer in estate planning is extremely valuable in avoiding the following common pitfalls of DIY will kits:
Failure to avoid probate
One way which a lawyer can look out for the client’s best interest in estate planning is through carefully organizing the client’s assets in an optimal way so that probate tax can be reduced or avoided. Probate occurs when the court validates a will, and each of your assets will have to pass through this process before they are passed along to your beneficiaries. When using an at home kit, this integral step to save your loved ones from the cost of probate tax is too often overlooked. To an untrained eye, the assets may appear in order, but only a lawyer can spot small issues in your finances that will rack up hefty costs in the form of taxes when your will passes through probate.
Wills are carefully and precisely worded documents that require extensive attention to detail. If the language used in your DIY will kit is unclear, whether it be due to a mistake by the person filling out the forms or the unknown person who drafted the will, the document can become vulnerable to court challenges from excluded family members or it can even be deemed invalid and therefore void. Each word in your final will and testament has very real legal consequences which are best understood by a professional. When drafting with a lawyer, you are also given the opportunity to ask questions about any of the terms that you may not understand, and what each part of your final will and testament may mean for your loved ones when it is administered.
The validity of a DIY will kit can easily be challenged in court. Although a will kit may be declared valid in court, the process of a court challenge is costly, time-consuming and stressful at a difficult time in the lives of your family and friends who are involved in the process of your estate administration. Furthermore, if your will kit or parts of it are declared invalid, the court will determine your best interests, rather than yourself or your loved ones. When you draft a will with a lawyer, you can trust that your final wishes will be honoured– and you can feel secure in the fact that your will is able to hold up in court.
Lack of legal advice
When you draft a will without consulting a lawyer, you may not understand the legal ramifications of the decisions that you are making. A lawyer will know exactly how to ensure that your wishes are clearly and explicitly communicated. Not only will a lawyer be able to properly address your wishes within the will, but a consultation with a lawyer will help you to determine those very wishes, especially in more complex estates involving blended families, common-law relationships, large estates, and business interests. Even in the simplest of estates, a lawyer can assist you in ensuring that your assets end up in the hands of your most cherished ones, and also that you have made the best choice possible in appointing an estate trustee to administer your assets.
A final will and testament is a very important document that will impact your loved ones upon your passing. Furthermore, Your estate is unique, complex, and individual, while a DIY kit utilizes a one-size-fits-all approach. As such, it is in the best interests of yourself and your loved ones to entrust the drafting of your will to a professional rather than utilizing an DIY kit.