It’s easy to see why some people would rather learn to do things for themselves than pay someone else – even professionals. One area that has become popular for do-it-yourselfers is estate planning. However, it may not be as easy as it appears and an unfortunate mistake can have profound consequences. Ann Aldrich, a resident of Keystone Heights, Florida, wrote her will using an E-Z Legal Form she found online. She included a detailed description of her specific policies, contracts and assets on the form. She also clearly stated that, upon her death, all of the listed assets should go to her sister, Mary Jane. The will even stipulated that if Mary Jane were to die before her, the assets then would go to Ann’s brother.
Mary Jane passed away before Ann. When Ann died, only the original assets detailed in her will transferred to her brother because she did not include a “residuary clause.” When a person dies with out a Will, or the Will doesn’t distribute all of the estate, the assets will be transferred pursuant to the laws of intestate succession. The brother claimed he was entitled to all of the assets, but his appeal was denied due to claims from other relatives (nieces from another brother who had died previously). In this instance, the Florida Supreme Court held that although Ann’s will was clear that she intended for her assets to pass to her living brother, it did not provide instruction as to the property acquired after the will was written.
This is only one example of how a DIY project can go badly. It’s not that Ann did anything technically wrong in her plan, but she didn’t have enough estate planning experience to understand the nuances of what could happen. In fact, providing so much detail in her will may have been her undoing. This is a cautionary tale about the risks of using only online resources for wills, as it may be worth hiring an estate planning lawyer to make sure it’s done correctly.
Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.