A will does not have to be prepared by an attorney to be legally effective. However, most people feel more comfortable if they consult with an attorney who can make sure their intentions are clearly stated and that they haven't missed important details.

The fact is, that while do-it-yourself will document preparation services look and sound good, and cost less than attorney's fees, they can give people a false sense of security. Online estate planning and pre-printed last-will documents are unlikely to catch mistakes and address personal concerns.

With family dynamics changing so quickly, (divorced families, step children, and new grandchildren) it's hard to cover all aspects of what needs to be very clearly outlined in a do-it-yourself will form.  Many family, personal, or business situations may require the help of an experienced attorney rather than the generic format of a do-it-yourself will.  The following are situations where it is imperative to have an experienced attorney prepare your will:

  • You have significant assets and want to minimize estate taxes upon your death.
  • You have minor children.
  • You have a beneficiary with special needs.
  • You're in a second (or later) marriage.
  • You own one or more businesses.
  • You have real estate in more than one state.
  • You want to disinherit a spouse or protect your inheritance from an inlaw in-law.
  • You think your will may be contested after you die.

Preparing a will is vital to having your wishes met after you pass away. It's easy to make mistakes or inadvertently misrepresent your intentions. If you do decide to use a do-it-yourself will program, make sure you have an attorney review it to assure that your wishes are fully and clearly communicated and follow your state requirements.

 Most importantly, make sure you register your do-it-yourself will with The U.S. Will Registry. The process is easy and free.  Your last will has no value if it can't be located when needed.

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