When planning a will, many people assume that filling out a single document or form is enough to divide their property appropriately upon death.
Unfortunately, this often results in unforeseen problems, such as beneficiaries contesting the will.
At Massingill, we are dedicated to helping clients protect their legacy and give their family peace of mind.
Is LegalZoom Good for Wills?
While it may be tempting to use do-it-yourself solutions like LegalZoom to create a will, it often leads to unintended property distribution.
To create an effective will, you need to take all possible life outcomes into consideration, including deaths, births, marriages, divorces, adoptions, and more.
Websites like LegalZoom cannot tailor your will to your specific situation and only provide a generic, one-size-fits-all solution.
For example, if you create a will with your wife as a beneficiary, what happens if she dies before you? LegalZoom cannot address these scenarios as thoroughly as an experienced estate planning attorney.
Is a LegalZoom Will Valid?
A LegalZoom will can be valid, but there are many circumstances that can make a will invalid.
Without the assistance of an attorney, you are much more likely to make an error that invalidates the will or cause someone to challenge its validity.
For a will to be valid, you can’t just fill out a form and put it in a drawer.
It’s important to comply with legal formalities required by the state, such as signing the will and having it appropriately witnessed. LegalZoom won’t complete these steps for you.
A LegalZoom will is also more likely to be subject to challenge. For example, imagine there are questions about whether the testator was mentally competent to sign.
If an estate planning attorney prepared the will, they could attest to the testator’s mental capacity.
But if the testator’s daughter just printed out the will and had them sign it, questions about mental capacity or undue influence could plague the probate proceedings.
Important Elements of a Will That LegalZoom May Leave Out
Even if your Will seems relatively straightforward, there are a few key parts of your document that LegalZoom won’t cover. Here are some of the essential parts LegalZoom might forget to include in your Will.
Alternative Executors and Beneficiaries
When filling out a will, the testator must choose an executor to carry out their wishes. In most cases, this is a spouse, child, or other close relative.
However, if the primary executor dies or rejects their role, the probate court must appoint an administrator for the will.
Each state has its own laws designating who may serve as an administrator if the testator doesn’t have an alternative executor.
In addition, if a testator doesn’t name an alternative beneficiary in case the primary beneficiary cannot receive a gift, the probate court will distribute the gift according to state law.
In some states, a will requires the signature of the testator along with signatures from two or more witnesses.
This means that the witnesses must be present when the testator signs their will and include the date and location of the signatures.
While this may sound like a minor detail, some states will invalidate a will without this information.
It isn’t uncommon for testators to leave a gift to a beneficiary with a request for them to meet certain criteria.
Conditions allow you to control when your beneficiary receives their gift and how your beneficiary uses it.
For example, if you want to leave your child a family heirloom, you can give it to them under the condition that they don’t sell it.
This is a great way to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled. However, LegalZoom may not provide an option for you to customize your gifts in this way.
A guardianship nomination is often overlooked in a will, especially if the testator expects their spouse to take care of their children.
However, this section helps identify a legal guardian for a minor child in case both parents die simultaneously.
Why You Should Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer
One of the major risks with using a service like LegalZoom is that they aren’t a law firm.
This means that they cannot legally review your will for legal accuracy, provide advice for filling out your will, or apply the law to your specific situation. As a result, many people who use their service unknowingly create an invalid or incomplete will.
If you want to create a will that minimizes the risk of legal disputes and carries out your wishes to the letter, hiring an estate planning attorney is your best bet.
At Massingill, our attorneys can help address your individual needs by making a comprehensive estate plan that covers every possible scenario.
This includes identifying both primary and alternative beneficiaries, assigning legal guardians to a minor child, preparing detailed medical directives, and more.
Need Help Planning for the Future?
Estate planning isn’t easy to do alone, especially if you have unique circumstances or don’t know where to start.
At Massingill, we know that your will is an important investment in your legacy. Our goal is to tailor your will to your precise wishes and protect your family from potential legal issues.
We proudly serve clients living in Cedar Park, Austin, and throughout the state of Texas.