For most people, a Last Will and Testament provides the foundation for a well-thought-out estate plan. Whether your estate assets are simple or complex, your Will determines who will receive those assets when you die. For this reason alone, care should be taken when preparing and executing your Will. Although a “do-it-yourself” Will can be legally binding, you put your estate as well as your loved ones at risk by choosing to forego the assistance of an experienced attorney when preparing your Will. A poorly drafted Will could lead to unintended consequences with respect to your estate assets. Moreover, an improperly executed Will could be rejected altogether by the probate court. Only an experienced estate planning attorney can ensure that your Last Will and Testament will be honored when the time comes.
At the Charleston, South Carolina law firm of Kuhn & Kuhn we understand how important the decisions you make when creating your Last Will and Testament are to you and, ultimately, to your loved ones. Our attorneys will ensure that your Will is properly drafted and executed, thereby ensuring that those decisions will be honored when the time comes. Contact the South Carolina law firm of Kuhn & Kuhn by calling 843-577-3700 or by using our online contact form today to schedule your free consultation.
Do You Really Need a Will?
Far too many people make the mistake of assuming that because their estate is modest, in terms of the value of estate assets, a Last Will and Testament is not necessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To understand why you need a Will, consider what happens if you die without leaving behind a valid Last Will and Testament. If you die without leaving a Will, it is called dying “intestate”, and the intestate succession laws of the State of South Carolina will determine the fate of all your estate assets. Just because you have yet to make your fortune does not mean your estate assets are without meaning to you and your loved ones. Perhaps you have family heirlooms, for example, that you promised to pass on to a beloved niece or nephew. Maybe you work closely with a charity and wish for the charity to receive what funds you have in your savings account when you die. Wishes such as these will not be honored if you die intestate because the intestate succession laws dictate which family members will inherit from your estate. If you do not want the State of South Carolina deciding who will inherit your estate assets, you need to execute a valid Last Will and Testament before you die.
Another mistake people make is to assume they are too young to need a Will. Unfortunately, tragedy can strike at any time and none of us knows when our time on this earth will come to an end. If you are the parent of a minor child and you die intestate, your minor child will inherit from your estate under South Carolina law. This often results in minor children owning an interest in their parents’ home. Along with the intrusion of the probate court into your family’s affairs, a Guardian Ad Litem will be involved with the administration of your estate, to question the decisions of surviving family members in regards to your child.
Of the greatest importance, however, for the parents of a minor child is that a Last Will and testament is the only opportunity you have to nominate a guardian for your child. Should your child ever need a guardian, a judge will have to appoint one when the time comes. The only chance you have to tell that judge who your choice would be for your child’s guardian is found in your Will.
Why a “Fill-in-the-Blank” Will is Risky
Boilerplate, or “fill-in-the-blank” legal forms are easily found on the internet in today’s electronic age; however, the risks you take when you use one of these forms are great. Tempting though it may be to save time and money now by using a “fill-in-the-blank” Will form you located online, it may be your loved ones who pay the real price down the road. When an attorney is not involved in the preparation of a Will, you may end up with a document that is ambiguous, inadequate, or even outright invalid. Some common problems found in a “do-it-yourself” Will may include:
- Ambiguous wording – boilerplate legal forms often include language that is less than clear in its meaning. This can lead to a lengthy, and costly, probate during which a judge tries to figure out what the decedent intended.
- Conflicting language – “do-it-yourself” forms frequently require you to make choices when filling out the form. All too often, those choices conflict with each other, leading to additional ambiguity in the document.
- Overly broad – a boilerplate Last Will and Testament form must be useable by everyone; yet, no two estates are the same and no two Wills should be the same.
- Outdated information – the law is subject to change at any time – and does change often. A change in the law can dramatically impact the terms of your Will; however, forms found online are frequently outdated and fail to account for recent changes in the law.
- Failure to be State specific – State law governs many aspects of estate planning, making it important to take into account the relevant laws of the State where your estate will be probated. “Fill-in-the-blank” forms, however, are often not State specific, causing them to be thrown out of probate court.
- Inadequate instructions – there is simply no adequate substitute for the advice and guidance of an attorney when preparing a legal document. The “instructions” included with boilerplate Will forms are typically lacking in both advice and guidance.
The South Carolina Wills Attorneys at the law firm of Kuhn & Kuhn are committed to helping you draft and execute a Last Will and Testament that reflects your wishes with regard to your estate assets. Contact the law firm of Kuhn & Kuhn by calling 843-577-3700 or by using our online contact form today to schedule your consultation so that we can get started with your Will.