Norristown, PA Estate Lawyer: Do-It-Yourself Wills Can Be Costly
Everyone should have a comprehensive estate plan in place. A thorough Pennsylvania estate plan, often anchored by a Last Will and Testament, can accomplish many important purposes. A will can provide assurance that your personal property will be distributed according to your wishes, name guardians for your minor children, shield your heirs from federal and state taxes, name a personal representative to administer your estate, and more.
You should always have an estate plan drafted by an experienced Pennsylvania estate planning lawyer. The consequences of failing to do so can be dire for your heirs. Despite numerous writings on the risks of do-it-yourself (DIY) estate planning, fears of extraordinary legal fees lead Pennsylvanians each year to bypass attorneys and create their own wills, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents.
If you die without a will, your estate is subject to Pennsylvania’s intestacy law, and your assets will be distributed according to state law rather than your wishes. Many people don’t realize that the same is true for a DIY Last Will and Testament that turns out not to properly conform with PA law. If your will is not technically valid in PA, your estate will be treated as if no will was ever created in the first place.
Do-it-yourself estate planning products – books, software and online fill-in forms - have exploded in recent years. Vendors of these products market this cookie cutter approach to individuals who are new to the estate planning process and hope to save a few dollars on attorney’s fees. For an unmarried adult with few assets, this one-size-fits all strategy may accomplish estate planning objectives with no long-term consequences. For most individuals in Pennsylvania, however, the do-it-yourself approach can be a costly mistake.
So what’s wrong with DIY wills and other estate planning documents? Without the assistance of a qualified estate planning lawyer, you may inadvertently fail to prepare for contingencies such as the birth of another child or being predeceased by your children. A PA estate planning attorney can draft appropriate provisions for estate tax savings. An estate planning attorney can also draft trust provisions for minor children. These are just a few examples of the advantages of using an experienced estate planning lawyer.
A compelling example of the risks of a DIY will is the Estate of the late Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Warren Burger. According to the Associated Press, Justice Burger prepared his own will on his computer. His will was very brief and failed to incorporate several important tax provisions that resulted in needless probate expenses. In addition, Justice Burger failed to shield his heirs from hefty estate taxes, costing the estate approximately $450,000.00. The lesson here is that even if you are knowledgeable about the law, failure to utilize a professional estate planning lawyer to prepare your Last Will and Testament can be very costly to your family.
The Martin Law Firm is an experienced PA estates and probate law practice serving Montgomery County, PA and the surrounding areas. Our skilled estates attorneys assist clients with probate and estate administration as well as Pennsylvania estate planning. Contact The Martin Law Firm for a free case evaluation at 215-646-3980.