It is tempting to create online wills for putting together your Last Will and Testament. Online will creation services will tell you that the Last Will and Testament created is as good as one written by an attorney and for a much cheaper price.
However, the quality of online wills created through those programs is, more likely than not, insufficient. Some of the benefits of working with an attorney are as follows:
An attorney can understand your full situation better than online wills programs
One of the benefits of working with an attorney to create your Last Will and Testament is that you gain access to the attorney’s knowledge and experience, such as:
- Her knowledge of the local law
- The politics of the court
- Her experience and expertise thinking through estates and estate planning instruments
Your estate planning attorney’s knowledge helps you understand how the laws and courts will interpret your will. Without this, the intent behind your words may be lost—and in the end, not followed. Online programs do not provide you with this kind of knowledge. They provide a generic understanding at best.
Online will programs can run into legal validity problems
Working with an attorney can ensure that your Last Will and Testament’s correct execution and legal validity.
Online wills cannot ensure that you correctly execute your will. An incorrectly executed Last Will and Testament is not valid. Regardless of your wishes, the court will not honor an invalid will submitted to probate.
Professional record-keeping ensures your will doesn’t get lost
Attorneys will keep your original Last Will and Testament in some cases, or return it to you for safekeeping. If the original comes back to you for safekeeping, the attorney will also keep a copy of it.
If you lose the original Last Will and Testament, then the attorney’s copy will become very important at probate or if you want to see what the Last Will and Testament says.
Additionally, if someone contests your Last Will and Testament, the records kept about your conversations with the attorney, capacity, and why you made the decisions is important.
There are also specific situations, such as disinheritance, that really need attorney knowledge and documentation. The online programs do not keep these kind of records.
Online wills can’t handle complicated estates
Most people think that their estate is not complicated. However, most actually are more complex. Your estate becomes complicated if your estate involves:
- children that are not the children of your spouse,
- spouse’s children who are not your children,
- wanting to define “child” as more than the traditional definition of “child”,
- assets with transfer on death or payable on death designations,
- minor children or beneficiaries,
- special needs children or beneficiaries,
- a trust or the need to create a trust,
- estate is large enough that tax planning should occur (in Oregon that is only $1 million),
- own a small business,
- are divorced, or
- have very specific or extensive plans for bequeathing property or money.
Even if your situation doesn’t match one above, there’s a good chance your estate plan is still more complicated than you might expect. A Last Will and Testament is an extremely important document and you want to get it right. Consulting with an attorney and making sure it adequately represents your goals is priceless.
A Last Will and Testament only represents your wishes at the time of drafting. It does not usually have provisions for what happens after you draft it.
Therefore, if your personal or financial situation changes (such as having a child, getting married or divorced, opening a small business, inheriting property/money from someone, a beneficiary or person appointed to be a representative predeceases you), you need to revisit your will.
Some modifications can be made with a codicil. Sometimes you and your attorney need to replace the old will with a new Last Will and Testament. Modifications on the document itself can result in unexpected results and should not be done unless the results are explained to you by an attorney.
While choosing to use an online will creation program might seem like a cost-effective way to create your Last Will and Testament, it is not a good idea in the vast majority of situations.
Nothing supplants the value an attorney adds to the process. The old adage stands: “You get what you pay for.”
Creating a Last Will and Testament that does not accurately represent your goals is actually more costly in the end, because either you will have to pay an attorney to redraft your Last Will and Testament, or your personal representative will have to deal with the results after you have passed away, which could lead to cumbersome and expensive litigation.
The matters dealt with in a Last Will and Testament are too important to leave to an impersonal online will creation program.
Turn to a trusted Oregon attorney for your Oregon will and estate plan
If you are looking to create your estate plan, please give me a call. I would love to help you navigate these choices with you so that you have an estate plan that accomplishes your goals, with the experience and personal touch that make this process easier for you and gives you the peace of mind you deserve.