Do you need a lawyer to prepare a will?

Special Power of Attorney to process documents

Wills areu2026 letu2019s just call them complicated instruments.

,Clients generally want things to be simple.

They just want a document that says u201cIf I die, everything goes to my wife, or to my kids.

u201d Maybe a charity of some sort.

,This doesnu2019t work very well in practice.

,Wills have to go through the probate process.

Even in a state that allows for informal probate of a will, thereu2019s court costs involved, and you better hope that the appointed personal representative does a good job and doesnu2019t screw up the family.

Hint: that rarely happens.

Probate proceedings open up all manner of attacks on the will itself if someone decides to contest things.

,If I had a nickel for every story I heard of families who still arenu2019t on speaking terms because of the fallout from everyone grabbing everything from Great Grandmau2019s house, Iu2019d be able to retire.

People change their minds about who should get what.

Clients constantly come in with lists of things that Great Grandma wanted little Billy and Susie to have, and then a couple weeks later, Billy isnu2019t really the favorite great-grandkid anymore and now Tommy, who took her to town and cut the grass really nice should get the old tools and stuff.

,Or, when the will was drawn up, it was done poorly.

There were only three kids in the picture, and then another was adopted.

Or born later.

And the original will specified only three kids and their names.

You know what happens to the youngest in that scenario?,If you wrote the will yourself, it might not meet the requirements for a will in your jurisdiction.

Some states recognize a handwritten will signed by the testator (the person issuing the will,) which is called a holographic will.

Other states donu2019t.

,So, you might think that you wrote a will, but it doesnu2019t count.

And now youu2019ve died u201cintestate.

u201d That means your estate plan falls to the state statutes and gets divided up according to the default settings of the state.

,There may be a lot of assets that donu2019t have to go through probate.

Or there might be a lot of tax consequences to having those assets go through probate.

For high net worth estates, an estate tax at the state and/or federal level may end up impacting the estate.

Attempting to convey all of it in a will may result in estate taxes, gift taxes to the recipient, or other issues.

A will may, or more likely may not be the best instrument or vehicle to address that.

,Lastly, a will u201cspeaks at deathu201d in legal terms.

So, the will doesnu2019t have any effect until the testator dies.

A will would not contain any advanced health directives that are enforceable, for example.

A will would not prevent unscrupulous family members from stealing and wasting the estate before death.

,A good estate planning attorney will be able to identify what a testator needs, and provide a range of options to help create a comprehensive, appropriate estate plan that best meets those needs.

That might include a will.

And it might include other options, including revocable and irrevocable trusts, powers of attorney, advanced health directives, advance gifts, and more.

,Estate planning is a complicated and specialized field of the law.

A competent professional can save you literally tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in future costs for a few hundred or few thousand dollars now.

,You wouldnu2019t buy a house without having a professional building inspector look it over.

You wouldnu2019t want to undergo major surgery without consulting a professional surgeon first.

You wouldnu2019t try to run a business without hiring an professional accountant.

,Hire a professional estate planning attorney, and pay them what theyu2019re worth.

Trust me, youu2019ll come out ahead in the long run.