Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Why Homemade Wills Do Not Work

Young man holding a trash binDrafting your own will or using a form that you purchased online to create a will, might seem like a good idea that will save you money. However, those wills often fail to do much more than create large legal bills in probate.

Wills often sound like simple legal documents. In a sense, they are. They are just a legal way to write down who gets your possessions after you pass away.

When it comes to estate planning generally, wills are among the simplest ways to express your parting wishes. However, the truth is that wills are only simple from an estate planning attorney’s perspective. They are not so simple that anyone can just write their own wills or purchase a form online to fill in and use as a will.

Those homemade wills do not always work very well for a variety of reasons, as the Huntsville Item explains in “A humorous look at the danger of homemade wills.”

Some homemade wills do not work for very simple reasons of formalities. In most states, executing a will requires that a specific number of people be present to witness the will being signed.

People who create their own wills often fail to either have the right number of people present or they do not leave any indication of how a court can contact the witnesses, if necessary.

Other homemade wills do not work for less technical reasons. The directions in these wills are often contradictory or impossible to carry out.

Getting a will does not have to be a complicated process but it should begin with hiring an estate planning attorney.

Reference: Huntsville Item (Nov. 27, 2016) “A humorous look at the danger of homemade wills.”


What is a Simple Will? When do you need more?

Bigstock-Beautiful-woman-looking-throug-20311445[1]The term "simple will" is often used to describe a certain standard type of will that many people get. Before getting one for yourself, you need to understand what it means.

Estate planning attorneys are used to clients saying they just need to get a simple will. Many people are told by others, long before they visit an estate planning attorney, that a simple will is what they need to get.  However, what a client might mean by a simple will is not necessarily what the attorney thinks it is.

Estate planning attorneys use the term to normally mean a particular type of will that has standard features.

Recently, the Courier Journal explained what those features are in "Thank You and Simple Wills."

A simple will normally refers to a relatively short document the primary feature of which is directing that all of the testator’s assets should go to a spouse. In the event the spouse has predeceased, then a simple will almost always directs that all assets be shared between the testator's children in equal shares. A simple will might also include basic information about who should be the guardian of any minor children the testator has.

That is normally all that a simple will contains, but there might be a few more basic provisions in some circumstances.

It should be obvious that a simple will is not the appropriate estate planning document for everyone.  Particularly in Maryland and DC, which are among the minority of states with either a state estate tax or an inheritance tax a simple will does not reduce tax liability or defer taxes.  In the District of Columbia which has an estate tax of $1 million and in Maryland which has BOTH an estate tax o $2 million and an inheritance, an individual may need more protection that  simple will provides.  Middleclass homeowners, for instance, based on the value of their house and insurane or IRAs, often exceed these thresholds and need more complex wills and/or  trusts to reduce state tax liability.  Consult Profit Law Firm, for a consultation to see if a simple will provides enough protection for your heirs.

Essentially, before telling an estate planning attorney you need a simple will, tell the attorney what you hope to accomplish with your estate plan. The attorney can then help direct you to the proper legal instrument for your needs.

Reference: Courier Journal (Sept. 13, 2016) "Thank You and Simple Wills."