The Dangers of DIY Estate Planning

A recent court decision regarding a mistake made in preparing a will has demonstrated the dangers of DIY estate planning for Georgia residents. Those who are tempted to try to handle their own estate planning out of a desire to save money on a lawyer must be prepared to bear the consequences if something goes wrong.

The specific issue in the case involved property that was inherited by the decedent after she had already prepared her will. The problem was that she had committed her will to a prepared form that was not done properly. The purchased will form was missing the key residuary clause that would have allowed her beneficiary to inherit the additional property that was not specifically listed in her will.

Her nieces, who were not in the original will, soon found out about the property and sued to obtain what they believed to be their share. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the nieces, and the beneficiary had to share the additional property with the nieces even though their aunt did not include them in the original will. One of the judges specifically noted that the decedent was penny wise and pound foolish in trying to save money in her estate planning, and her family was now paying the price.

Families may be able to avoid unintended consequences like this when they obtain the advice of an estate planning lawyer. Individuals should know that they will be bound by what actually appears in the four corners of the will and therefore must get it right. The court will not give extra consideration to the fact that someone was handling their own paperwork as opposed to using a lawyer. An estate planning lawyer may make sure that all of the required clauses are contained in the will.

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