The devastation to human life caused by the pandemic has forced many people – including young people – to think about what would happen to their family in case the unthinkable happens. As a result, people are rushing to create online wills, so that their assets are passed on to beneficiaries of their choosing in the event of their death.
While making an online will is certainly better than not having a will at all, it is not a good idea to create your own will without consulting an estate planning attorney. If you are not careful, your decision to create a DIY will could prove to be a costly mistake and make it difficult for your loved ones to deal with your estate when you pass on.
DIY Wills in California – What You Need to Know
Under California law, you have the authority to make your own will. It can be a handwritten will (commonly referred to as a holographic will) or a statutory will (a downloadable will that you can fill out).
- For a handwritten will to be deemed legally valid, you should date and sign it.
- For a statutory will to be deemed legally valid, you should have two witnesses who must witness you sign the will and sign it themselves.
Since these requirements are extremely easy to meet, many people think that they can save a lot of time and money by making a DIY will. The problem, however, is that a DIY will can lead to a lot of unnecessary legal complications, which your loved ones might have to deal with after you are gone.
The Risks Associated with a DIY Will
Your Will Could Be Declared Invalid
One of the biggest risks associated with a DIY will is that if you are not careful, it could be declared invalid by the court after your death. For instance, if your handwriting is not legible, your will could be deemed undiscernible.
Similarly, if your will does not express your intentions clearly, it could be declared too vague. If you have more than one beneficiary, you should clearly mention how your assets should be split up and who should get what. If you fail to do so, your beneficiaries might choose to contest the will, as a result of which it might get stuck in probate limbo for months – if not years.
A DIY Will Might Not Suit Your Needs
The one-size-fits-all nature of a DIY will might not suit your unique estate planning needs and goals. You are not allowed to make any changes or add anything to a statutory will. If you do, it will be declared invalid. So, by choosing to create your own will, you might not be able to accomplish all your goals.
You Might Add Contradictory Provisions
Without the guidance of a seasoned California estate planning attorney, you might find it difficult to express your intentions clearly in your will. If you accidentally add provisions that are contradictory to each other, the executor might not be able to carry out your instructions. It can also lead to disagreements among your beneficiaries, which in turn can lead to litigation.
There Might Be Issues with Guardianship
One of the common mistakes that many people make while creating a DIY will is that they tend to focus only on the financial aspects and fail to make provisions for other, equally important issues like guardianship of minor children.
The most common issues with guardianship are:
- If you fail to designate a guardian for your minor children, the court will step in and choose someone as the guardian.
- If you fail to designate an alternate guardian, and if the original designee becomes ill, dies, or if they are unwilling to be the guardian of your children, the court will have to step in and choose someone as the guardian.
- If you designate a couple as the guardians for your minor children, and if they split up after your death, your children could get caught in a custody battle.
A Will Is Not an Estate Plan by Itself
A Last Will and Testament can accomplish a lot toward your estate planning goals, but there are some things it cannot do. For example, a will cannot help you plan for your incapacitation. Nor can it help you avoid probate. In order to plan for these contingencies, you need other tools like a financial power of attorney, an advance healthcare directive, and a living trust. So, along with your will, you should utilize other documents to create a comprehensive estate plan that addresses all your needs and goals.
Need Help with Estate Planning? Our Southern California Estate Planning Attorneys Are at Your Service!
Estate planning is a complicated process that requires the guidance of a committed attorney. At Garmo & Garmo, we have a team of highly skilled attorneys who have more than 80 years of combined experience with estate plans and related matters. We can create a plan that takes all your needs and goals into account and update it as your circumstances change.
To discuss your estate planning needs with one of our attorneys, call us today at 619-441-2500 or contact us online and schedule a free consultation.