With so much information available on the Internet, DIY is attempted on almost anything these days. Unfortunately, when it comes to DIY, you don’t know what you don’t know. This can be extremely dangerous in estate planning. A recent court case in Florida highlights the dangers of DIY estate plans.
Aldrich v. Basile, Florida Supreme Court Case
In the case of Aldrich v. Basile, Ms. Aldrich created her own will using a template that she found online. She was diligent in outlining all of her assets in the will, even including account numbers. She named her sister as the primary beneficiary and her brother as an alternate. Her sister died before her and left Ms. Aldrich all of her assets. When Ms. Aldrich died, everything should have gone to her brother, but it did not.
Ms. Aldrich failed to add her additional assets (received from her sister’s estate) to her will. Her will also lacked something called a residuary clause, which would have covered any assets not specifically listed. Without that clause, only the accounts listed were covered by her will. As a result, her nieces were able to successfully receive part of her estate (which included her inheritance from her sister). Click here to read more about this court case.
Dangers of DIY Estate Plans
Ms. Aldrich’s DIY estate plan proved costly for her brother. Not only did he incur legal expenses to dispute claims from his nieces over the estate, but he also lost a portion of his inheritance in the ruling. It’s doubtful that Ms. Aldrich intended for her nieces to receive any part of her estate, but this is difficult to prove in a court case. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the biggest dangers of DIY estate plans is that you don’t know what you don’t know.
Ms. Aldrich thought she was protecting her estate by preparing a will. However, she didn’t know that the template form was missing a key clause and protection. Her attempt to save a little money by taking the DIY approach was ultimately much more costly in the end.
DIY can be useful in many cases, but legal matters are one where the assistance of a professional is key to protecting your rights and achieving your goals. Avoid the dangers of DIY estate plans by working with local and experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorneys.