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The Disadvantages of Will Kits

Most of us have seen advertisements on TV and in magazines that are promoting the use of “will kits” to assist with estate planning.  These kits are marketed as cheap alternatives to hiring a lawyer to prepare your will so that you can save time and money.  It might seem self-serving for an estate planning law firm to advise against the use of will kits, but the purpose of this article is to demonstrate why we think using a will kit creates a false sense of security.  While you will save some money using a will kit, it’s very likely that you will also be creating costly problems for your heirs and beneficiaries to deal with down the road.


Prefab will templates are marketed as a one-size-fits-all approach to creating your will and usually include no more than a pre-printed form and instructions on how to fill it out.  Unfortunately life is just not as simple as a single prefab form!  A proper will needs to be tailored to meet your individual circumstances and situation.  Will kits are usually found only in one format to be applied across all parts of the U.S.A even though wills come under state jurisdiction.  Because each state has a specific set of rules and laws with respect to the administration of estates, having a trusted estate planning attorney prepare your will ensures that it meets your individual needs and that it is effective and valid in the state of Pennsylvania.


If you are considering using a will kit, you are taking a big risk: your intentions and wishes regarding the disbursement and management of your estate quite possibly will not come to pass as you intended after your death.  In order to be effective, your will must use precise language that clearly outlines your intentions and wishes and leaves no room for error or misinterpretation.  Vague or conflicting wording in a will could deliver completely different results than what you had intended and this can lead to expensive court applications for your heirs.


When creating your will, you also have to think about the inevitability of taxes.  The tax consequences of your death will be taken into account by an experienced estate planning lawyer and will be reflected in a properly prepared will.  A will kit does not provide sufficient tax advice nor does it advise about what legal steps you can take to limit the amount of taxes that will have to be paid.


The structure of a will is also very important.  The wording and language used in a will must be precise and the paragraphs that detail the management and distribution of your estate should follow a specific order to be effective.  While the prefab forms and instructions in a will kit attempt to provide a structure and paragraph order, when you complete it yourself it is easy to unintentionally mix up the order and omit certain pertinent details. 


Your will must be correct because it’s one of the most important documents you will ever sign. Once you pass away, you will not be available clarify your wishes or make corrections!  It is best to approach the will preparation process with the same caution you would use to make a major purchase like a home or a car.  Research who is providing the service, find out their qualifications and determine their preparedness to stand behind their product.  Will kits have lengthy disclaimers that free marketers from any responsibility should your estate suffer a loss.  While will kits may be a cheaper alternative to hiring an attorney, like all purchases, you get what you pay for.  When it comes to something as important as the management of your estate, it is best to err on the side of caution and rely on professionals to assist you with the documentation and planning process.


Let us help you plan for the future.  To discuss your specific needs with a wills and trusts attorney in Pittsburgh, please call us at Fingeret Law at 412.281.8222 or contact us online.




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