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  • Writer's pictureLee Roth

Why Online Wills Fail In Court

Legal Failure

When people find the strength to face their mortality, they have a Will written. It's a highly-charged emotional time packed with hard questions about loved ones left behind and the nuances of those relationships. In context, this is why at least fifty percent of Americans don't have a Will, including about thirty-three percent of people over 65 (data source: Gallop).

The Do-It-Yourself (DYI) Will industry understands why people feel like procrastinating. To avoid the emotionally and financially challenging relationship questions, today's online programs, books, and boxed software provide legal template documents.

What could go wrong, right?

DIY Wills May Fail To Protect People - My Experiences

A patent-holding retired scientist in a neighboring county wrote his Will and left money to select relatives and organizations. He took the document to a bank and had different people in different offices sign as witnesses. After he died, several of the provisions were considered strange and hard to understand. Because of some of the words used and the way it was signed, the Will was "set aside" as not having been properly executed.


A businessman owned a multi-million dollar construction company and instructed his secretary to write a DIY Will and designate herself as the executor. She gathered signatures from employees. In testifying, one of the employees said he thought he signed a gun permit form for the boss. To complicate matters, the secretary didn't have the experience to run the business during probate. "Setting aside" the Will resulted in an expensive settlement and high litigation costs, far beyond a lawyer's fee to write a legally sound document.

I Don't Like Do-It-Yourself-Wills.

They mislead people into a false sense of security and hurt loved ones.

From wording to the legality of signatures and witnesses, hard discussions and council have to happen before a Will does what it is expected to do and before it becomes valid.

Why Do Assets Fall Through Loopholes?

If you put together a Will without professional advice, you might overlook that a it only controls the assets that are in your name alone. You cannot Will a joint bank account or a co-owned investment account to a person unless you are giving it to the co-owner. The proceeds of a life insurance policy will go to the named beneficiary and not to the person you name in your Will. Your lawyer will know that. Your computer program may not even ask about that issue.

Why Do Minor Children and Special-Needs Beneficiaries Need Professional Will Protections?

If your children are to be beneficiaries you need to think about their individual needs, capabilities, and maturity. DIY programs lack the nuanced emotional and financial reasoning to address these questions prudently.

You may want part of what you leave them to be held and paid out over time. You may want to be sure money left to them s applied to education and not an expensive car. You may even want to adjust the age requirement as they mature. With special-needs-beneficiaries, government benefits needs careful balancing and considerations.

Who Should Manage Estate Affairs Through Tax Filings and Distributions? (Estate Planning & Wills)

It's not uncommon to think and trust that our children will look out for each other. However, when money is involved, sometimes mistakes in reliance are made. It is best to provide, or at least discuss, a formula or other means of measuring needs and desires. At the least, a none conflicted person can serve as executor or trustee.

Find The Strength

If one dies without a Will, the family will likely have to post a performance bond that could cost more than $1,500 for an administrator appointed by the local surrogate. A will can avoids this cost.

A professionally written Will is a psychologically and financially prudent move for surviving heirs and family. Get to your lawyer, or give us a call at 908-782-5317, or send me an email at to discuss your situation. We're gentle and thorough.


Survey Method + Image Credits - Gallop

"Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 4-8, 2016, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods."

Gallop Poll Americans without Legal Wills

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