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Lessons Learned in Estate Planning: When Not to Use A Do It Yourself Will


The economy is on another downward swing and you’re pinching pennies to pay your monthly expenses let alone create your estate plan on a budget. Is it wise to use a do it yourself (DIY) packet offered on various websites?

Advantages of DIY Estate Planning Packages

One of the most popular reasons for a DIY estate planning package is that it is an inexpensive alternative to hiring an attorney.

Besides being affordable, a person may feel they don’t have enough assets in their estate to leave to loved ones to need an attorney’s advice.

Disadvantages of DIY Estate Planning Packages

One problem with the one-size-fits-all estate planning packages is they may not comply with your state’s applicable law. For instance, in some states you may need two witnesses and in other states you need three witnesses.

Most of the DIY estate planning packages don’t have the self-proving affidavit. In Florida, if there is no self-proving affidavit to the Will, then there will need to be an Affidavit and/or Oath of Witness. Also the parties who witnessed the Will need to testify in court.

Another problem with the one-size-fits-all estate planning packages is the language in the estate planning documents may not be suitable leaving your intentions for disposition of your estate unfulfilled.

The major problem with DIY estate planning is the purchaser misses the opportunity to obtain legal advice.

Why Do I Need to Meet With an Attorney for Estate Planning?

By meeting with an attorney for your estate planning needs you’ll be advised of rights, ways to implement your estate planning, utilize the appropriate estate planning instrument which is the most advantageous to you and your loved ones, and proper language required in order to fulfill your intentions of how you want to dispose of your estate.

Examples of DIY Estate Planning Gone Wrong

Estate of Ann Aldrich. Here is a prime example of a Florida case in which a DIY Will form was used which at the time executed fulfilled the intentions of the decedent’s wishes. Aldrich created her Will in 2004 and when the Will was created, it included the assets she had at the time. It was Aldrich’s intention to leave her home, car, property and other listed items to her sister. If her sister didn’t survive her, then she named her brother to receive the estate.

Unfortunately, Aldrich’s sister predeceased her. As a result of Aldrich’s sister predeceasing her, Ann Aldrich received a portion of her sister’s estate. She never amended her Will to include the newly acquired assets.

The major flaw of the DIY Will was that the DIY Will didn’t include a residual clause that addressed what to do with the assets not specifically bequested in her Will.  Since the DIY Will made specific bequests, the intentions for any asset not identified in the DIY Will meant that the residual (assets left) were silent. The residual assets which were from her sister’s estate were basically “intestate.”

Instead of Aldrich’s brother receiving everything as was her intention, the residual portion of her estate was shared between her brother and two nieces. The Aldrich case went to the Florida Supreme Court and the intestate succession laws at the time of the petition were applied.

Does it mean that all DIY Estate Planning packages are ineffective? No. It simply means that it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney for a consultation regarding your estate planning to understand the language in the instrument, estate planning strategies, and ensuring the estate planning documents comply with your state’s requirements.

If you need your estate planning reviewed or a life-changing event has recently occurred affecting your estate planning, contact Attorney Thomas Upchurch or call us at (386) 272-7445 to review and update your estate planning documents.


This blog post only reflects my personal views in my individual capacity. It does not necessarily represent the views of my law firm or my past clients, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them. The case-specific information contained in this blog post is based solely on opinion, and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. No representation is made about the accuracy of the information posted on this blog site. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

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