For better or worse, more and more people are turning to online and Do It Yourself (DIY) services to meet their legal needs. Before you decide to create your own will, use an online service, or even hire a cheap lawyer, keep in mind that while these online companies are making legal services more accessible, they’re also doing their customers a disservice, as evidenced in the recent case of In re: Estate of Aldrich heard in a Florida appeals court.
Ms. Aldrich created her will using a downloaded template from E-Z Legal Forms without the advice and guidance of an estate attorney. It appears that she wished to leave specific assets to her sister, and then to her brother should her sister die before her. After Mrs. Aldrich’s sister did die, Ms. Aldrich never updated her will to account for the sister’s death.
Thus, after Ms. Aldrich died, the assets named in the will went to Ms. Aldrich’s brother, but unfortunately the template she used did not include a residuary clause, which establishes where unnamed assets should go. There was no way for Ms. Aldrich to know that this was missing from the will because she was not a lawyer, nor was she educated about such matters.
As a result, without a residuary clause the unnamed assets Ms. Aldrich acquired after the creation of the will passed under Florida’s intestacy laws and into the hands of her nieces, children of another pre-deceased sibling, instead of to her brother as she seemed to have wanted. This, of course, was determined only after a long, expensive, and unnecessary court battle between the nieces and Ms. Aldrich’s brother.
Services like E-Z Legal Forms do not provide personal legal advice or ongoing legal support. Had Ms. Aldrich worked with an estate lawyer to craft and then update her planning, she would have left her brother an inheritance of love rather than a nightmare.
People too often create their will without having a lawyer review it and then forget to update it as loved ones pass on and new assets are acquired. In the end, their wishes aren’t honored because they weren’t clearly defined, leaving the matter in the hands of the probate court.
If you’re ready to develop a sound estate plan that will leave a legacy of love, start by sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you with your legal planning needs and our Family Wealth Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
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