In Part 1 of this series we discussed the potential for older documents to involve too much estate planning (i.e. over planning) when considered in light of current tax legislation. In this installment we will look at the dangers of a “one size fits all” plan that does not provide enough planning (i.e. under planning). On common example of under planning is found in DIY wills that are generated by a consumer from a form (e.g. internet, software package or prepackaged paper forms). As the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
There are a number of cautionary notes to be applied to internet wills. For instant, they often fail to utilize advantageous provisions that are allowable under individual state laws. They may fail to provide proper instructions for execution of the document and may not be properly executed at the time of death resulting in inflated probate costs or, worse, an invalid will. Among the most troubling trends I have seen is improper gifting. In the past several years I have had a number of clients come into my office with internet wills only to find that their will does not dispose of their property in the manner they intended. This is generally a minor problem if it is discovered and corrected during life. However, if it is not discovered until after someone passes it can have far reaching and expensive consequences.
Similarly, package wills almost never explain why a certain provision is included or excluded from a will. Your average consumer does not understand the impact the certain circumstances or choices can have on your existing documents. The seemingly normal act of obtaining a larger insurance policy may have dramatic tax consequences at the time of your passing. Accordingly, it is important to seek the advice of professionals when preparing your estate plan and remain vigilant in having it reviewed on a regular basis or as major life events occur.
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