Making This Type of Last Will Should Scare You the Most

Making Wills Easy – New Summer Series 6

I want to tell you about Alice’s scary will.

Wills are legal documents that must comply with formal legal requirements. One small will mistake can force everyone to visit courthouses. Everyone asks judges, “What did your will mean and can judges fix your will mistakes or not?”

Your estate usually pays for everyone’s legal costs to interpret your will. This leaves less money for beneficiaries and more money spent on lawyers.

Homemade Will Disasters: Alice’s Story

Alice wrote out her will at the kitchen table. Alice had told her nieces and nephews how they were to divide things. She only had some stuff at the bank to handle after she was gone.
Alice wrote in her will: “I leave all my money in the bank to my nieces and everything else to my nephews.”

The nieces thought that wording would include the bank:

• term deposits,
• mutual funds,
• tax free savings accounts.

They found out the hard way in court. The bank said they need a court order to pay out what money Alice had at the bank. The bank refused to pay anything other than money in Alice’s bank accounts.

“That’s right,” the judge said, “bank term deposits are not money; they are term deposits. The nephews got the mutual funds and tax-free savings account and not the nieces.”

You Will Remember Alice’s Will Mistakes

The judge said that Alice had made the mistake that caused everyone to hire lawyers. She had to pay for everyone’s lawyers’ fees.

I guess Alice would be rolling in her grave if she knew what this mistake cost her family.

You cannot assume your family can do what you tell them to do without a legally valid will.

Do-It-Yourself Wills Create More Costs and Problems

Some will kits are sold as fill-in-the-blank forms. The advertisements claim you don’t need to use lawyers. Meanwhile, the forms are filled with disclaimers. Will your family hold will kit companies liable for any mistakes you made years later?

Who does your family sue if there are mistakes? Online websites and forms create similar problems. Everyone thinks, “Why bother with lawyers if the law doesn’t require them?”

Cheap online or paper will kits come with disclaimers. No one guarantees what you do with will kits is legal. Most will kits or online forms must use general wording. They don’t consider necessary legal differences in your jurisdiction. They are not specific enough if they have to apply in every province or 50 states.

Such generalizations can lead to interpretation issues. These can drag everyone into court to ask judges what your will means.

Most people have trouble properly filling out forms. Your mistakes may not be discovered until it is too late. Some mistakes cannot be fixed. Your money is usually wasted by do-it-yourself (DIY) wills. People believe DIY wills are better than nothing.

Well, in my experience, DIY wills only make more work for lawyers and more money. That should scare you to invest in a professionally prepared will.

I do have a bias as a lawyer; it’s true. But I also advise lawyers who need to fix DIY wills by going to court.

When it comes to making wills, trying to save money may be a costly mistake.

Contact me to make your will appointment.