There's nothing more frustrating than having something completed, only to find out it was done wrong when it's too late to fix it. Imagine the severity if it's your last will and testament.
While Illinois recognizes many wills--including some in rather simple forms--the requirements are still very strict. Do-it-yourself "will kits" and online forms have become common as the internet has grown. Any estate plan is subject to probate and the state's meticulous regulation. If you fill out a "will kit" wrong, your will is either invalid or it may benefit the wrong people.
Avoiding disputes and drama
It's no secret that some people argue about wills, whether it's questioning the intent of the deceased or questioning the validity of the actual document. There are many famous cases, from Patrick Swayze's family arguing a forged will to Mickey Rooney's family disputes over his burial location.
Clarity is king
The purpose of any legal document is to provide clear communication. A will should state your wishes and instruct how you would like your assets distributed. There is an entrenched legal process to guarantee this, while minimizing disputes over property after the fact. A will kit may be cheaper, but the one-size-fits-all approach may not communicate your message.
And it may not be valid under state law. Here are some common issues with DIY wills:
- Unclear conditions or distribution allocation
- Signature, witness and notary errors
- Incorrect or missing information
- Each state has unique probate laws
- Missing property or accounts
- Poor choice of executor
- Failure to name a guardian
- Blended family dynamics
Protecting intent, protecting loved ones
Unclear or errant information invalidates a will. In the list above, there is a common theme, namely inexperience with legal documents.
For many, a will won't get the job done in the first place. Estate plans are not just a list of who-gets-what. They coordinate beneficiaries, establish ownership transitions and maximize tax structures.
There are significant tax implications with any inheritance, which can leave your loved ones with a piece of property--but also with a sizable tax bill attached to it.
Purchasing software or downloading a form may appear to save money at first glance, but it is no replacement for experienced advice. Wills are intended to give clear direction as you share your property with your loved ones. Too often, a do-it-yourself version leaves your loved ones with confusion and greater expense instead.