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Florida wills deserve professional attention

Last week's post discussed reasons why West Palm Beach residents should think twice before taking it upon themselves to make changes or additions to trust documents. Even relatively simple trusts have to operate in accordance with complex state and federal laws and seemingly innocent modifications can sometimes create unexpected problems.

There may be somewhat less reason for concern when it comes to personally preparing a simple will, but even there a small mistake could defeat the effort entirely. Although wills are not subject to as strict a set of rules as trust documents, they must still comply with state law in order to be legally valid. Even when nobody disputes the terms of a will, technical flaws can still cause an estate to get hung up in probate court and may even result in a will being invalidated altogether.

For anything more involved than a very small and simple estate, something more than a barebones will is likely to be necessary in order to achieve a person's estate planning goals. Even those companies that offer standardized wills on the internet recommend that people have them reviewed by an attorney when an estate plan involves anything more detailed than simply passing all of a person's estate to one immediate family member.

There are a number of important considerations that an estate planning attorney can address where a do-it-yourself will can offer no assistance at all. For example, the choice of an executor involves a host of personal considerations that may deserve in-depth discussion. Cookie-cutter wills rarely prompt users to consider making arrangements for pets or the wisdom of placing certain conditions on distributions to heirs.

Even the best of the standardized will kits on the market cannot account for the variety of factors that make estate planning a truly personal effort. Floridians today need to account for blended families, guardianship provisions for children and the coordination of beneficiary designations across multiple investment accounts and insurance policies. Putting it all together in a package that achieves personal goals, minimizes tax liabilities and meet the requirements of applicable law requires the type of comprehensive knowledge and personal service that only a dedicated estate planning professional can provide.

Source: CNBC, "Where You Can Go Wrong With a Do-It-Yourself Will," Jan. 17, 2013

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