Most people know that creating a will can be as easy as filling out a form. In fact, it is easy to download a cookie-cutter form for free on the Internet in order to create your last will and testament all by yourself without the need to employ an attorney. However, is this safe and can such a self-made will withstand a formal challenge in probate court?
In some cases, a do-it-yourself will is going to be fine, especially if your situation is very clear cut and it is highly unlikely that your family members will not fight amongst themselves over the division of the estate. In these kinds of situations, where you do not have very much in the way of assets, estate planning can be completed through an easy to fill-out “form will.” That said, Florida residents who go this route will definitely want to educate themselves on will planning mistakes to avoid and the various nuances of Florida will planning law.
As for when it is more appropriate to employ an attorney, usually, the larger the estate, the more chances there are that family members will get into arguments about its division. Sometimes, even the littlest thing can spark a fight — like a piece of much-loved heirloom jewelry that two siblings want equally. Something of little value might also result in a probate battle if it has a great deal of sentimental significance to more than one family member.
People with larger estates may also want to do some estate tax planning to try and reduce the estate tax burden on their estates and/or the inheritance tax burden that their heirs could face. Fortunately for Florida residents, our state does not impose an inheritance or estate tax following your death. However, the federal government does impose estate taxes. If you believe your estate could be valued at more than $5 million after your death, then it could be in danger of exceeding the federal estate tax exemption, and you may want to consider using the services of an experienced lawyer.
At the end of the day, Florida residents who have even the slightest hesitation, reservation or question regarding their wills, should — at the very least — seek a free consultation with a qualified legal professional to better ascertain whether it is in their best interests to obtain legal counsel.
Source: Dummies, “DIY or Not: Wills and Estate Planning,” Gabrielle Karol, accessed Aug. 13, 2015