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Complications may arise from do-it-yourself wills

Some Florida residents may think about how they want to provide for their loved ones after they die. There are a number of estate planning options that may help in this regard, including wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. Some people may opt for a do-it-yourself option, downloading pre-printed forms and filling in the blanks in order to create a will. These may be valid, but there are other concerns that may arise.

In one case that reached the Florida Supreme Court, a woman wrote her will on a pre-printed form, listing out her items of property and the details for her bank accounts. She left her assets to her sister and then her brother, if her sister predeceased her. Wills should, generally, contain a provision to include all assets that are not specifically mentioned elsewhere, called a residuary clause. This makes sure that any items that were not specifically named will still be distributed according to the person’s wishes. However, in this case, the woman’s form did not include a residuary clause, meaning that only the items specifically described were covered.

After she received an inheritance from her sister, she did not update the will. Without any clause to address it, it passed via intestacy to her nieces, despite her never naming them in the will. Her brother took legal action, but the lack of a residuary clause meant he could not recover the property.

While the woman may have meant to save money by using a pre-printed form, the case eventually led to costly litigation that stripped assets from the estate as well as unintended heirs inheriting property. An estate planning attorney may help people to avoid these pitfalls and create wills, trusts and other key documents.

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