DO I NEED A LAWYER TO WRITE A WILL????
Do I need a lawyer to write my will? Interesting question. The easy answer would be no. But, easy is not always the right answer.
No, legally you do not need a lawyer to write your will. Yes, you can write your own will. But, we’re forgetting the real question here. Which is: should you?
Let me tell you some reasons why you should hire a lawyer.
No one likes taxes. Except for maybe the IRS.
You work hard for your property. So let me ask you a question. Who do you want to inherit most of your property? The IRS? Or, your loved ones? Most, if not all of us opt for loved ones.
We want to minimize taxes.
Why am I asking you about tax minimization? To show you why you need a lawyer to write your will.
You see, a good estate planning attorney helps you with tax savings advice. He, or she, creates a plan that minimizes taxes. Why is that important? The lower the tax consequences, the more your heirs inherit. That’s what you want, right? So, hire an estate planning attorney to write your will. Trust me, your heirs will thank you.
IF A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE CAN’T DO IT CORRECTLY, WHY WHOULD YOU?
Even lawyers can make mistakes writing their own wills. See, an estate planning lawyer is different than a criminal lawyer. A criminal lawyer is different than a corporate lawyer.
Why am I telling you this? Well, let me tell you about Warren Burger.
Warren Burger was a Supreme Court Justice. In fact, he was the Chief Supreme Court Justice before he died. What he was not was an estate planning attorney.
However, he decided to write his own will. He wrote a very short will of 176 words. What’s the problem? He was an attorney. All attorneys know how to write wills, right?
So what happened? Well, his family had to pay $450,000 in estate taxes unnecessarily. His Executors had to spend court fees on unnecessary court filings. Why? Well, to carry out their duties that Warren burger forget to include in his will. Essentially, by doing his own will, Warren Burger caused his family to pay a large portion of their inheritance to the IRS. An estate planning attorney could have prevented this scenario.
Moral of the story, do not write your own will.
CONFUSION OR UNCERTAINTY ABOUT YOUR WISHES
Sometimes words can be confusing. Words can have double meanings. And, sometimes we use words incorrectly.
For instance, you may state you want your daughter to inherit your house. Simple, right? Well, what happens when you die and you have two daughters – Mary and Sarah? Who gets the house?
When you write your will, you cannot afford to be unclear. You need your will to accurately state your wishes. Otherwise, the wrong people may inherit from you.
An estate planning attorney knows how to write clearly. He or she knows what wording to use so there is no ambiguity. He or she can use wording to cover future situations.
Are you married? Divorced? Separated? Widowed?
Relationships change throughout our lives. You may forget to change your will when your relationship changes.
An estate planning attorney reviews your old will if you have one. He or she asks you about your marital status – both present and past. He or she will make sure your current spouse inherits from you and not your ex-spouse. Unless that is what you want to happen.
Do you want your ex handling your estate when you die? Do you want your ex inheriting your property? A poorly written will may allow this to happen. Do you want to take the chance that it will happen? If not, do not write your own will.
You decide to write your will on your own. You name beneficiaries. But, what happens when those beneficiaries die before you do? Or, they die at the same time as you?
An estate planning attorney helps you write a will that covers different scenarios. If heir A is dead, then who will be heir B? If heir A & B die, who will be heir C? Every conceivable situation is covered.
As I tell my clients, I do not have a crystal ball. However, I can help you plan on known future possibilities.
Did you know that executors are required to post bond in North Carolina? Did you know that an estate planning attorney can help you avoid that requirement?
When you write your own will, you may not know all of the requirements of your state. You may end up having your heirs and executors pay unnecessary expenses.
A good estate planning attorney knows the laws. He or she will make sure your will complies with those laws. He or she will ensure that administration expenses are minimized.
ONE SIZE WILL DOES NOT FIT ALL
Every person is unique. Every person faces different situations. So, a well written will would be different for every person.
OK, you’re thinking, I would write a will that is right for me. But would you? Sure, you may cover the basics. But, have you thought about future possibilities? Did you consider family dynamics? What about health conditions of your heirs?
asks you about your family. He or she asks you about health conditions. He or she asks about financial concerns. Then, he or she will craft a unique plan just for you.
When you write your own will or use a computer formula, you create a one size fits all plan. You just write, or cut and paste, generic clauses. These clauses may or not be an ideal fit for y our situation. And that is where an estate planning attorney can help.
An estate planning attorney carefully chooses wording that fits your situation. Your attorney makes sure your clauses represent your wishes. You can rest assured that your heirs will be whom you want and will receive the property you want.
Let’s take the example of a disabled child. If your child receives Medicaid, an inheritance from you could disqualify him or her from receiving those benefits. An attorney can help you create a way for your child to inherit from you and still receive those benefits. An improperly worded will would result in your child being disqualified from those benefits.
See why a cookie cutter estate plan is not always a good option? And, this is another reason why you need an attorney to write your will.
You need an attorney to write your will. Otherwise, you risk your heirs being overly taxed. You risk confusion about your wishes. You risk disqualifying your heir from government benefits.
So many risks. Do you really want to take those risks? Talk to an estate planning attorney today. Get your plan done correctly, legally and with minimal taxes.