Cristyn: Some people think that they can write their own will and it will be just as good as if someone like me were to write that will for them. Frankly, it’s just not true. First off, each state has its own specifics about what can go inside a decedent-created will, so a holographic or handwritten will, some states do not permit them. Then again, even amongst the states that do, they have different and varying rules around what formalities must be met for the will to even be valid. Let’s move on and let’s pretend that the person creating the will did meet his or her own state’s requirements and it is a legally valid will.

The next thing is, did they even put in the will what they actually wanted? I had someone who did their own plan, they were so proud of themselves, they had even done beneficiary deeds and gotten them recorded. I said, “Tell me what you think this plan does.” She said, “It gives everything equally to my two kids.” Guess what that plan did? It gave everything to her daughter and nothing to her son. To make it worse, she had validly recorded those deeds that gave both properties to the daughter and nothing to the son. Luckily, she came to my office, I was able to fix it and get in place what she actually had intended but imagine the nightmare for the kids and how that son would’ve felt to have been disinherited by his mom, who clearly did it by accident.

We’ve got the, did you even meet the formalities? Did you even put in place what you want? Let’s say you’ve done both of those things, but have you thought through all of the additional what-ifs? So many of our clients come in and when we’re working with them, they say, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t think about the first what-if.” Again, sometimes the first what-if is, “Okay, what if the one person you appointed as personal representative can’t serve in that role?” They can’t do it. They’ve passed away. They’re incapacitated. They just choose not to. You didn’t put backups in place. When you work with an attorney, they know the backups, they know the pitfalls that happen when you fail to do certain things. They can give you advice surrounding that.

Another reason to use an attorney that handles estate and probate work is that attorney knows what they’re doing, and you will have true peace of mind because you know it was created properly. I have so many clients who come in and say, “I did this well on my own, but I just had this feeling, you should take a look at it.” It’s never what they want, or it’s never executed properly, or it’s missing fundamental elements beyond the first layer. It’s missing all of the what-ifs, that do frequently come to play. People pass away in orders we hope they won’t. Those clients clearly did not have peace of mind and obviously for good reason because their plans had gaping holes, but when they left my office with their new plan, every client talks about the peace of mind they have because they know what’s done right. That’s what you really get when you’re hiring an attorney, knowing that it was done right and having peace of mind.