The Internet has brought many positive changes to our lives. It allows us to gather information more broadly and at a much greater rate than we could in the past. While access to information is generally helpful, we must remain cautious about how much stake we put into some of the information we gather there. Online legal documents are one such form of information that requires extreme caution.
Wills and other similar documents are readily available on the Internet, and most can be purchased more cheaply than a Will prepared by an attorney. However, such an Internet document may put you in the position of being “penny-wise and pound foolish.” For example, these documents may originate from a state where the property laws are different than those in Ohio. What may save you a few dollars on the Will-drafting end of the transaction may cost your heirs thousands of dollars on the estate-administration end.
More specifically, common mistakes in such packaged documents include failure to: provide clear direction for proper execution of the Will, provide for alternate distribution in the event of the death of a beneficiary, consider non-probate as well as probate asset distribution, plan adequately for tax issues, include appropriate Executor powers, and waive bond. Poor draftsmanship in the language of the packaged document or poor instruction on how to complete the document can lead to ambiguity, or, even worse, an outright contradiction to your true intent. Sometimes, poor drafting can even necessitate the filing of a second probate procedure known as a Will Construction action, which is designed to determine the intent of the written document. Such a procedure can lead to additional legal and probate costs, not to mention complications and a longer process for your Executor and beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, we have recently encountered a few cases involving costly mistakes caused by the use of Internet Wills. By informing you about the common pitfalls of such packaged documents, we hope to help you understand the value of having your legal documents professionally prepared.
As attorneys practicing daily in this field, we stand behind our documents. We take your testamentary wishes and, based on your entire set of unique circumstances, craft them into a document that will carry out those wishes. We meet with other lawyers regularly, attend seminars, and stay abreast of Ohio law to make sure that our documents contain everything you need to protect you and carry out your wishes. Our clients find our services both affordable and very valuable.
Just as you would never use Internet information to fix your own teeth or perform surgery on yourself, do not fall into that same trap when it comes to your important legal documents. In the long run, writing your own Will can easily turn out to be more costly than paying an attorney to properly prepare it.