DIY Estate Planning: Can I Make a Will Myself?
While a steady drive towards technology has been growing for decades, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic tremendously increased our reliance on technology, effectively changing the the way we do nearly everything, including estate planning. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) online services offering legal templates and forms have gained popularity in the wake of the stay-home orders, popular for their convenience and low cost. DIY estate planning forms, such as like a last will and testament, codicils and health care or financial powers of attorney, created without the guidance of an attorney can create several issues.
Take, for instance, the case of Aldrich v. Basile, which the Supreme Court of Florida called “a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing pre-printed forms and drafting a will without legal assistance.” In Aldrich, a women used a DIY will template that willed several assets to her brother. After creating this will, she inherited some property and large sum of money. Her will, however, did not contain a residuary clause, which accounts for all property not specially bequeathed in the will. Upon her death, her brother and nieces began suit to determine the rightful owner to the inherited money and property, each claiming it was theirs. The Florida Supreme Court held that because the will did not contain a residuary clause, the money and property would pass through intestacy (the law that happens when someone dies without a valid will), meaning it would be split according to the default Florida laws. This case demonstrates the detrimental impact of an online will template can have when it does not adequately address your estate’s specific, changing needs.
There is no “one size fits all” estate plan. Working personally with an attorney can ensure that you explore the best options for planning your estate. While a will is an important element of estate planning, it shouldn’t be the only document. A comprehensive understanding of the different factors that affect disposition of property upon death, such as beneficiary designations, titling of assets, and the use of trusts to transfer assets outside of probate, are essential to creating the most beneficial estate plan for you.
The skilled attorneys at Chepenik Trushin LLP can assess your circumstances and work with you to create a plan that best fits your needs. Contact Bart Chepenik, 305-613-3548 (always accessible days and evenings), or Brad Trushin, Esq, 305-981-8889. We’re ready, willing and able to help assist you with your estate planning needs.
 Aldrich v. Basile, 136 So. 3d 530, 538 (Fla. 2014)