Creating Your Own Will Comes with Pitfalls
You’ve seen form wills online or in stores, offering the promise of a legally-binding will in exchange for filling in a few blanks. You may have even heard of people handwriting their wills for the ultimate DIY last testament. You may have found yourself wondering, is that a worthwhile way to save some money on legal fees? Read on to learn about what can go wrong when you don’t use an estate planning lawyer to create a will.
Chances are, your handwritten will isn’t valid. In New York, handwritten wills that are not signed by witnesses—known in the legal world as “holographic wills”—are only valid if created by someone in active duty in an armed conflict as a member of the armed forces, someone who has accompanied a member of the armed forces to an armed conflict, or a mariner at sea. Even then, the holographic will is only valid for one to three years after the individual is discharged from the military, or returns from the conflict or their time at sea.
Meeting with an attorney to help you create a will allows you to learn of the possible consequences of passing a gift to a particular recipient. For example, should you leave all your assets to a parent, you may push them into a different tax bracket, making their own estate planning process more difficult.
An attorney can also help you pinpoint heirs who may not benefit from an outright gift, and who would be better served by a gift with certain strings attached. For example, leaving thousands of dollars in cash to someone who may still be very young when you pass could be overwhelming and result in poor financial decisions. A lawyer would notice this issue and help you create a trust that would regulate that person’s ability to spend their inheritance. If you intend to leave all your money to an important cause, an attorney can help you structure that gift in a way that is ultimately better for the organization, and which does a better job of effectuating your own wishes.
A lawyer can help you anticipate potential conflicts which might arise from how you leave certain gifts. For example, appointing one sibling as executor could result in another sibling feeling unfairly treated, making the better solution to choose another individual entirely. A lawyer could also point out situations where leaving gifts in unequal amounts to relatives who may fight over the distribution could result in a court battle over the will’s legitimacy.
If you are in need of legal assistance in creating an estate plan in New York, seek the experienced and knowledgeable counsel of the Poughkeepsie wills and trusts attorneys at Van DeWater & Van DeWater for a consultation, at 845-452-5900.