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Why not to use a do-it-yourself will

Preparing a "do-it-yourself" will when you are not experienced in estate planning is kind of like changing your own oil when you have never done any mechanical work. You may be able to do it, but chances are you are going to make mistakes and probably a mess as well.

Below are just a few of the common mistakes made by people who attempt to prepare their own do-it-yourself wills:

1. Trying to be proactive by detailing every asset owned and naming who it will go to. This might sound like a good idea if you plan to never purchase another asset. But in reality, unless you plan on dying in the next day or so, your list of assets will probably change drastically before that day comes. It is not a bad idea to list out certain pieces that you specifically would like to see go to one or more of your beneficiaries, but as a rule, assets should be generalized such as " ... divided equally between my three children."

2. All dependents were not named in the will. If you name your dependents at the time you write your will, and additional children are born later, you have to be sure to update your will. This is one more reason to be general in your terms. Suppose your will says, "I bequeath all of my belongings to my two children, Sally and Benjamin." Then along comes Susie, and you die before updating your will.

3. Not naming a residual beneficiary. A residual beneficiary is a person who will receive any leftover items or money after all of your assets have been dispersed, all taxes or bills paid, and so on. Usually this is the main beneficiary of a will such as your spouse, but suppose your beneficiary has passed away. No one is named to inherit what would have gone to them or what is left.

4. Not thinking through all scenarios is the biggest mistake people make. Doing it yourself is only good if you are experienced enough to think of each and every scenario that can happen. If not, your "do-it-yourself" plan should include: "Get an attorney to help draw up my last will and testament."

Source: USlegalwills.com, "The six most common errors in a do it yourself Will.," accessed March 09, 2018

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