People who write their own wills may save some money, but their estate and relatives may ultimately pay much greater costs for this false economy. Improperly drafted and self-prepared estate documents may not comply with New York’s laws governing wills & trusts and could jeopardize a person’s intentions over the inheritance of their estate’s assets.

Popular websites and commercially available publications may contain seemingly impressive boilerplate forms. However, these sources may not contain documents that comply with New York’s specific requirements governing wills and estates. For example, New York and other states have laws governing how a will should be executed and a court may invalidate a will that does not meet these legal requirements. Heirs may face avoidable costs and complications during probate or property may be left to unintended heirs under state law.

An improperly drafted will may also conflict with a person’s other legal documents such as a prenuptial agreement or even earlier wills. Conflicting documents may lead to years of litigation and legal bills for a person’s family. Self-drafted legal documents may also appear valid but lack important specifics, which can have other unintended consequences or costs. For example, leaving real estate in trust to heirs in a will also requires clear instructions. Assets must be left to heirs who are properly identified.

Estate planning must also incorporate a person’s entire financial and family situation. Money may unintentionally go to a person named as a beneficiary in an overlooked insurance policy or pension plan, for example, despite the will’s instructions. Planning should address how property can be left to family members who may not be competent to receive assets because of their age, health or financial experience. An attorney can help address these matters. Their assistance may assure that a persons wishes are carried out and estate documents comply with New York law.