What are The Risks of DIY Wills and How Do I Avoid Them?
5 min read

What are The Risks of DIY Wills and How Do I Avoid Them?

What risks do I face when creating a DIY Wills? How Do I avoid making mistakes when drafting a DIY Will? In this article, we'll outline possible risks and tips to be aware of when creating a DIY Will. Keep reading to learn more!

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When you think of the phrase “Do it Yourself” or “DIY” you probably think about trips to home renovation stores such as Lowes or DIY furniture stores like Ikea. This phrase might make you anxious if you’ve had a bad experience putting together an Ikea dresser. (And who among us hasn’t been traumatized by an Ikea instruction booklet that explains how you can put together an eight-drawer dresser in just 79 steps with no words? Is it just me?) 

But I digress. Furniture and home reno projects aren’t the only areas of life where people are increasingly turning to DIY services. The latest innovation in estate planning involves using Artificial Intelligence to draft Wills. At FastWill we recognize that AI should be used with caution since it is a new technology. That’s why our legal experts have trained our AI to meet the requirements of your state’s laws, with the end result being legally valid Wills for all 50 states. 

But is drafting your own DIY Will really a good idea? What are the risks of using DIY Will services to create low-cost  Wills? Are there ways to minimize the risks of writing your own Wills? In this article, I will address the risks of DIY Wills and give you the tips you need to make sure that your will is legally sound.

Risk: Inadequate Understanding of Legal Requirements

DIY Wills may not comply with the specific legal requirements of your jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding the execution, witnessing, and notarization of Wills. For example, one state may require two witnesses to watch you sign the document in their presence, while other states only require the witnesses to view and validate your signature later. If you were to research the requirements of the law yourself, it would take time and you might misinterpret what the law says.

Tip: Using an estate planning service like FastWill ensures that your Will is informed by actual lawyers who are familiar with the laws in your area. FastWill can guide you through the process, ensuring your Will meets all of your local legal requirements.

Risk:  Ambiguous or Poorly Worded Language 

DIY Wills often use generic or unclear language, which can lead to misinterpretation or confusion. Ambiguities in your Will can create disputes among your beneficiaries. This is especially true when a person does a handwritten Will. This is known as a “holographic” Will and it is not even legal in every state. Even one of the most experienced jurists of all time got things wrong; Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote his own Will but at less than 200 words it simply didn’t meet the legal specifications of state law.

Tip: Will preparation services can help you draft a clear and precise Will that accurately reflects your intentions. FastWill’s AI technology has been trained by actual lawyers to accurately use language that meets the legal requirements of your state. They have the expertise to ensure your wishes are communicated effectively and minimize the potential for legal challenges.

Risk: Failure to Address Complex Situations 

DIY Wills may not adequately address complex family situations, such as blended families, children with special needs, or beneficiaries with financial irresponsibility. If you make a mistake in your online or DIY Will, then your beneficiaries are the ones who will pay the price. 

Tip: Does this mean you need a lawyer to write your Will? Not necessarily. An attorney can provide personalized advice and tailor your will to accommodate your unique circumstances, but so can an AI-assisted Will preparation service. FastWill is designed to help you identify factors that may impact the distribution of your assets and help you make appropriate provisions in your Will.

Risk: Ignorance of the Tax Implications of Your Will

DIY Wills often overlook potential tax implications, such as estate taxes or capital gains taxes. Failing to account for these taxes can result in unintended consequences for your beneficiaries.

Tip: If you have a large estate, a CPA, lawyer, or tax preparation expert can help you understand the tax implications of your decisions. However, the vast majority of people won’t be subject to an estate tax because the federal estate tax has a high exemption amount of $12.2 million in 2023. Many states have abolished estate taxes, while others have high exemption values. 

Risk:  Failure to Consider the Entire Estate Plan

DIY Wills typically focus solely on the distribution of assets through a Will, neglecting other essential components of an estate plan, like trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives.

Tip: You can work with FastWill or other online Will providers who can help you create those other estate plan documents.  

Risk:  Failure to Review and Update the Will

If DIY Wills are completed without the input of a professional or a reputable online platform, this increases the risk that an error will be made, or the Will won’t be updated to take into account changed circumstances. 

Tip: It is important to periodically review and update your Will to reflect changes in your life circumstances, assets, or legal requirements. FastWill can help you make sure your Will remains up to date and aligned with your intentions. In fact, it is easier to update your DIY Will with FastWill than it is by seeing a lawyer. You can make a new Will or simply add a codicil simply by logging into your account.

Risk: Not Informing Your Loved Ones You Wrote a Will

If a DIY Will is completed without a lawyer, you run the risk that no one will know you wrote a Will, or that no one could find it. Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner wrote a Will but her husband couldn’t find it so her estate was treated as if she died intestate. Singer Aretha Franklin left handwritten documents inside the cushions of her couch. In both instances, not putting the Wills in a safe place where others could find it doomed the estates.

Tip: Since the point of a Will is to leave instructions after your death, you can alleviate this risk by telling someone where your Will is. You can also leave it in a place where someone will obviously find it, like a personal safe or a bank safe deposit box. It’s also a good idea to discuss your efforts with your family and the person you name as executor.

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