As an estate planning lawyer, I’m often asked whether online will services or will kits are any good.
Will planning kits or online tools are an okay starting point for creating a will. And yes, they’re cheaper than using a trained lawyer to draw up your wills, trusts and powers of attorney. But remember – you get what you pay for.
A will is one of the most important documents you will sign in your lifetime. It outlines how you want your property and assets – like your home, pension or investments – to be distributed after your death. A complete estate plan typically includes a will, a durable health care power of attorney (for medical decisions), a durable power of attorney for asset and financial management, and sometimes a living will and / or trust.
Despite what many assume, an estate plan is not just for the wealthy – a good estate plan can protect your assets, save taxes and other fees upon your death, and shorten probate time.
While an online will might be able to get you started on some of the points you need to consider, it’s impossible for any book, software program, or website to account for an individual’s unique situation and needs.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
Let’s start with why you need a will. If you die without a will in Michigan, your estate passes to your inheritors by “intestate succession”. The laws governing intestate succession in Michigan are outlined in the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (or EPIC) Act 386 of 1998 Article II Part 1.
These laws clearly outline how your estate will be divided by the probate court, unless you have a legal will that specifically states your wishes. While the law is clear, it may not reflect your desires on how you wish your property to be divided after death.
This can result in serious family disagreements after your death, and may leave a loved one unprotected.
An Estate Planning Lawyer Will Know What Questions to Ask
Creating a will requires trust. You can talk face to face with an estate planning lawyer, and gain the benefit of their years of experience creating wills, POAs and trusts. While a boilerplate will can guide you through the basics, a lawyer will dig deeper, ask questions to uncover pitfalls, and offer solutions and options you may not have considered.
Drafting a will is a creative, collaborative process…one that can’t be replicated by a machine.
An Estate Planning Lawyer Can Answer Your Questions
Google provides a wealth of information at your fingertips…but how do you know for sure if you are getting the right answers? A qualified estate planning lawyer can answer your questions confidently. They have the experience and knowledge to apply to your unique situation and needs…not just based on an average or “typical” case.
An Estate Planning Lawyer Knows the Laws in Your State
This is truly important. Inheritance and estate laws vary from state to state. Boilerplate wills and online tools are often written out of state, or are generalized based on common law, vs. the specific state laws of Michigan. Best case scenario – there’s a small error that can easily be corrected in probate. Worst case, your document is invalid and the wishes you laid out in your online will cannot be followed.
An Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help Protect Your Assets
Drawing up a proper estate plan may cost a little, but more than likely, the savings your heirs will receive down the road will be greater than the initial expense of a lawyer. A proper estate plan can reduce taxes and other costs faced by your loved ones after death, and help them reduce or avoid administrative and legal costs.
The effort of creating a solid will and estate plan can eliminate the reality your loved ones may face, having to pay hundreds of dollars trying to gain possession of your assets in court. Read more about the benefits of completing an estate plan.
An Estate Planning Lawyer Will Keep Clear Records
Believe it or not, lost or outdated wills are a huge issue. Even if you keep on top of updating your will, as your life changes, there can be confusion about which version is the most recent. An estate planning lawyer will keep your most recent Will on file, and will work with your estate trustee(s) to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Create Your Will With Confidence with Stephanie Krane-Boehmer
There are many sound reasons for using an estate planning lawyer to create your will and only one reason not to – the cost. Let’s loop back to the opening of this blog. You get what you pay for.
Rather than relying on a program that simply drafts documents without a clear understanding of a person’s assets, family, or unique situation, take advantage of the experience and knowledge of a trusted lawyer to create your will.
Reach out to Stephanie Krane-Boehmer for a free initial 30-minute consultation on estate planning and creating your will.
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