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How a downloaded or boilerplate last will leads to problems

Most people know that hiring an attorney isn't a cheap thing to do. However, when someone needs to take legal action to protect themselves or the people they love, focusing on costs instead of effectiveness is a serious potential mistake, and one that could cost more in the long run.

Many people will try to forego getting the legal help they need during certain times in their life, such as when they first create a last will. Instead of speaking with an attorney, learning about their options and creating a specific plan based on their family's needs, some people will choose to just download a template off of the internet and plug in the names of their family members.

Unfortunately, those boilerplate documents available online can increase the risk of more expenses down the road for a number of reasons.

The form you download may not comply with state law

Although people create and use last wills in every state, each state has its own rules regarding estate administration and probate. What is legal in one state is not legal in every state. Some templates for last wills available online are so generic that they might not have any terms or language that violate state law, but those highly generic forms have their own risks.

Others with more specific language may be useful in one state, but not necessarily in Maryland. Without an attorney to review it, you won't have any way of knowing if the last will you create will even be legally enforceable.

Generic last wills might not include enough information for executors

The person who has to handle your estate when you pass will have a lot of work to do, and they will likely do their best to comply with your wishes. Unfortunately, if you use a basic last will that you find online, there may not be much space for you to leave instructions. The fewer details you include, the harder it may be for someone to make decisions about the administration of your estate and how to properly handle different assets.

A lack of witnesses could lead to future challenges

Creating a last will that you print off from your home computer, signing it and placing in your safety deposit box can seem like a fast and easy way to plan for after you die. However, without proper witnesses, it's possible that the courts may not honor your last will if someone chooses to challenge it.

Having an attorney draw up a last will protects you from all of these issues. They tailor the terms of the last will for your family's unique situations and your specific wishes, ensure that your instructions all comply with state law and serve as a witness to the creation and signing of the document.

While it may be cheaper in the short term to create a last will using a digital template, if someone challenges your last will and drags your estate into probate, that could be many times more expensive than working with an attorney initially to create an effective last will.

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