Nine Common Errors That Make Online DIY Estate Planning Documents Unenforceable

DIY estate planning can go wrong demonstrated with Wood letters of DIY and definition on wood background

Any time a new year begins, many people set a goal to finally get around to creating an estate plan. And too many try to do it themselves with online DIY estate planning documents. While sometimes that can work out okay, too often it causes more headaches and heartaches for your loved ones after your death. Most people do not have the legal knowledge necessary to determine what clauses and language should be included in a will or trust to accomplish estate planning goals. They also are not familiar with state laws or how to comply with them. This is why people rely on experienced attorneys to prepare the necessary documents to carry out their wishes.

We recently discussed the use of artificial intelligence programs for estate plan drafting. Estate planning attorneys help you avoid the following common mistakes in online documents that could make them unenforceable, require a court to interpret them, or lead to fighting among your loved ones:Avoid mistakes in diy estate planning documents

  • Ambiguity in wording
    • Ambiguity can lead to disputes and legal battles among potential heirs. Example: a will stating "I leave my property to my children" without specifying which children by name.
  • Improper use of legal terms
    • Misusing legal terms like property, beneficiary, or per stirpes can lead to confusion or incorrect interpretation of your intent.
  • Incorrect names or information
    • Misspelling the full name of a beneficiary or heir or using a previous name after a legal name change makes it challenging to identify the intended recipient.
  • Inconsistent terminology
    • Using different terms to refer to the same asset (e.g., house, residence, property) may create confusion about what is being inherited.
  • Improper witnessing and notarization
    • Failing to properly witness or notarize a will and other legal documents according to state laws can render them invalid and unenforceable.
  • Lack of clarity in distributions
    • Vague instructions regarding who will receive your accounts and property or how they will receive them, such as "divide my estate fairly among my children," may cause disputes if there is no clear definition of terms like fairly.
  • Failure to address contingencies
    • Not accounting for contingencies, such as what to do if a beneficiary predeceases you, can leave money and property without designated recipients, subjecting it to your state law.
  • Inadequate powers of attorney
    • Failing to grant adequate powers of attorney, such as financial or medical decision-making authority, creates complications in managing affairs during incapacity and with advance directives at the end of your life. This could require your loved ones to get a court involved, which is what the powers of attorney were meant to avoid.
  • Conflicting information
    • Providing contradictory instructions within a single document or across several documents leads to uncertainty about your intentions.

If you do not understand which estate planning strategies should be implemented to address your unique situation, how can you ensure that the DIY plan you're using is creating the appropriate documents for your needs? Legal professionals have the necessary expertise and training to ensure that your concerns are addressed and can implement an adequate estate plan so that your wishes can be legally carried out. If you are ready to create a legally enforceable, customized estate plan, give our office a call to schedule an appointment.

Categories: Estate Planning