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The Dangers of Do-it-Yourself Wills

I often tell people that it MIGHT work out fine if they do their own will. Of course it might not. I like to tell people that we’ll find out after they die!

Well, a recent Florida case emphasizes this sentiment.  The Supreme Court of Florida recently heard the case of James Michael Aldrich v. Laurie Basile, et al. (No. SC11-2147).  In this case the decedent used an “E-Z Legal Form” will. She laid out every item with detail but failed to mention later acquired assets. She inherited a large sum after doing her E-Z Legal Form will and thus the will did not give away these assets. In fact, the laws of Florida gave those later acquired assets away to someone other than who she intended to give things to by her will.

In her concurring opinion in Aldrich v. Basile, Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente wrote:

“While I appreciate that there are many individuals in this state who might have difficulty affording a lawyer, this case does remind me of the old adage “penny-wise and pound-foolish.” Obviously, the cost of drafting a will through the use of a pre-printed form is likely substantially lower than the cost of hiring a knowledgeable lawyer. However, as illustrated by this case, the ultimate cost of utilizing such a form to draft one’s will has the potential to far surpass the cost of hiring a lawyer at the outset. In a case such as this, which involved a substantial sum of money, the time, effort, and expense of extensive litigation undertaken in order to prove a testator’s true intent after the testator’s death can necessitate the expenditure of much more substantial amounts in attorney’s fees than was avoided during the testator’s life by the use of a pre-printed form.”

I am just a mere estate planning attorney so who am I to talk about things like “penny-wise and pound-foolish?”  However, the above quote is a Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Hopefully her words mean something to you if you are thinking of doing your own will!

Florida, California, or anywhere in between hire an attorney to do your will!

Good luck whatever you decide!  -John

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