At Cayce & Grove we recently came across the following article in American Baby, re-posted on the Parents Magazine website, that raised our eyebrows a bit. For the Moms and Dads out there, this is an important read.
In response to the question, “You often hear that you can write down your will on a piece of paper, and that’s all you need to make it official. Is this true?” The magazine published the following answer:
In many states, yes, provided the will is handwritten and signed. “However, such wills can be hard to authenticate later on,” says Mary Randolph, a lawyer and editor at nolo.com, a Web site that demystifies legal issues. Most people don’t need a lawyer to make a will. “Unless you have a large estate or a disabled child who needs a special trust, all you need is some will-making software customized for your state,” Randolph says. Nolo sells a kit that includes a book and Quicken Willmaker. Fill out and print the forms, and get three people to verify it’s your will by signing it (there’s no need for them to read it) in front of a notary. Then you sign it. For a small fee, the notary signs it to attest its authenticity. “Store it in a safe place in your house, such as a lockbox, and be sure the executor you name in your will knows where it is,” she says.
This response, recommending the use of a form and stating a will is only necessary for special needs children or a large estate, is scary for a number of reasons — but is especially disconcerting for parents of young children. An attorney is able to urge situation-specific reflection and planning that will avoid potentially frustrating, expensive, and even scary outcomes for your family. An attorney experienced in Estate Planning will be able to help you spot potential issues and consider risks that a simple form will not bring to light.
The bottom line is this: While forms may cover the generic 85% of all Wills, it’s the hypothetical 15% left out that may have lasting impacts on your children and family. The cost of estate planning is relatively low and affordable, especially when compared to the cost of mistakes made in the planning and drafting stages. There is no substitute for competent counsel in matters of this importance. We believe that Family is simply too important to not take the additional precautionary steps to protect.