There is a sign in front of a cemetery I frequently pass by that says “Free Legal Will Kit – you don’t need a lawyer” outside the gates. I wonder about that cemetery. I wonder if they provide your loved ones with shovels when you pass away and say “have at it”. Then when you don’t dig down the legally required depth, they wait until the funeral is over and charge you to dig a deeper hole properly.
That sign is the legal equivalent to the horrific grave digging scenario I have sarcastically suggested above, but the legal situation is more expensive and possibly more horrific.
“Fill in the blank Wills” do not contemplate your personal situation. These templates also have a lot of room for error. At the time you write the will, you have two children, Jack and Jill and you want to leave your estate to your children (realizing you may have more in the future) so you decide to write out “I leave my estate to my children Jack and Jill.” After you sign the Will, you have a third child and never update your Will. Your third child is now frozen out of your estate.
Another possible scenario is when you use the Will Kit with the legal phrase, “I leave my estate divided equally between my “issue”. You’re not sure what “issue” is and you think you will look dumb if you ask, so you leave it. As in the scenario above, you have three children, Jack, Jill and Jr. and want to leave everything to them.
You pass away. At the funeral a child you never knew you had introduces himself to the rest of your family. That child is your issue. That child now shares equally with Jack, Jill and Jr. and you never meant for that to happen.
The above is just a Will scenario.
Our firm regularly sees problems with contracts, leases and other legal documents that people have put together without understanding them. Using a lawyer does not make you dumb, it makes you informed and it is far less expensive to have a lawyer draft a document that makes sense, than have a lawyer litigate a document that makes no sense.
You need us stinkin’ lawyers.
Inga B. Andriessen JD