Following Prince's death on April 21, and the ensuing revelation that he died intestate (without a will), DIY legal sites have seen a dramatic uptick in overall estate planning volume - but are these DIY estate plans really protecting people as much as they think?
Nolo.com saw a 24% spike in sales of its WillMaker service, 42% for its Nolo Online Will and 41% for its Nolo Online Living Trust service.
LegalZoom.com saw a 46% increase in overall estate planning volume.
RocketLawyer saw a 57% increase in estate planning activity.
USLegalWills.com posted a 61% surge in will in the three weeks following Prince's death.
But, having personally attempted to probate these DIY wills, simply filling in the blanks and signing on the signature page is not enough. More often than not, people fail to have their DIY wills notarized, meaning they are not self-proving wills. When the executor goes to submit the will for probate after the testator has passed, they be rejected initially and be required to track down the witnesses and get them to sign affidavits to verify that they witnessed the will.
Even if these people knew to get the will notarized, a lot of notaries won't notarize a will without the attorney who drafted the will present or without the testator have the oath of competency administered prior to signing.
The preparation of the document is not enough. The formalities and the planning involved is much more important and eclipses any potential monetary savings you could get from going the DIY route.
People create a will to prevent their family from going through a bunch of hassle after they pass. But, getting a DIY will can deliver just as much hassle. Seeking legal advice and planning is far better in the end - and I'd say that even if I wasn't an Estate Planning Attorney.
Paul A. Yokabitus