In the wake of COVID-19, our country and the world have seen many changes. The world of estate planning has seen changes as well. Estate planning law firms saw an uptick of people wanting to get their legacies in order as they faced the uncertainty of the pandemic. And while more proactive estate planning is always a good thing, we also saw the rise of something less ideal: people opting to complete digital wills.
The appeal of online wills is that it is low-cost and, presumedly, virtual. However, online wills come with a set of risks. If you’re thinking of completing your will online, here’s why you should reconsider:
They Are Not Valid in Every State
Each state has its own set of legal requirements when it comes to wills. You must ensure the state you live in legally recognizes a digital will as valid. Otherwise, the will you crafted online will be essentially worthless, leaving your family in the same situation they’d be in if you had died with no will in place.
You’ll Still Need Witnesses
If you think completing an online will mean you get to bypass any third parties, think again. Most states require that your will be printed and have at least two witnesses sign it. These witnesses must be disinterested parties – in other words, not your beneficiaries or named decision-makers. Oftentimes, notarization is required. Meaning that you will have to find a notary and pay for their services to seal the deal.
You May Need More than Just a Will
If your estate planning goals do not involve probate or are complex, you likely need more than just a simple will. It’s important to remember the terms of your will apply only upon your death. Things happen, and you may find yourself incapacitated. What then? In such an event, you’d want incapacity documents in place to protect yourself and your assets. Upon death, your will may not control all that you want as the will only applies to assets subject to probate. Some of your largest cash assets, like life insurance proceeds, are ruled by beneficiary designations, and therefore, will not be automatically governed by your will. All that said, you may also benefit more from having a living trust in place rather than a simple will. A properly funded living trust helps ensure any assets that are owned by the trust avoid probate and go directly to your beneficiaries, as stated by you.
No Attorney Advice
The value of an attorney’s knowledge, expertise, and legal ability cannot be understated, especially when it comes to getting your legacy in order. A good estate planning attorney will make sure you’ve included everything in your will by asking the right questions and going over drafts with you. If your estate is complex, your attorney is there to help you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. And as stated above, you may need more than just a will. Perhaps you need advance medical directives, a living trust, and financial power of attorney. An attorney can help with those, too. Having an attorney draft your estate planning documents also better protects your wishes if there’s a legal issue down the road, or if someone contests your plan after you pass. Beyond all this, a good attorney gets to know you and your family, building a relationship that lasts for years.
The attorneys at Borakove Osman LLC devote their practice to you, your family, and your legacy. We have dedicated our practice to helping families and individuals with their estate planning, elder planning, estate administration, asset protection, and business continuation planning needs. Simply stated, we love what we do, and believe that you will thoroughly enjoy how we do it. Request a consultation today!