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Why 'E-Z' estate planning legal forms should be avoided

Nowadays, Americans can find just about any reference document that they require on the Internet. However, simply because a form is available online does not mean that individuals should fill it out without seeking an expert opinion.

Of course, certain forms like school field trip permission slips, requests for information from an institution of higher learning and changes of address forms may be filled out without help from any sort of professional. However, forms that are likely to be called into question by a court should almost certainly be filled out only after you have consulted an experienced attorney.

For example, many estate planning forms are available on state government websites. Although their location is convenient and it is possible to fill these forms out on your own, it is generally inadvisable to do so without the help of an estate planning attorney.

The Journal of the American Bar Association recently published a story that illustrates why it is so critical not to take estate planning matters into your own hands without expert consultation. The story profiled the story of a woman who filled out an “E-Z” legal form when constructing her will. Although the woman never mentioned her nieces in her will, her nieces successfully sued to obtain some of her estate because the E-Z will did not have a residuary clause. The woman almost certainly did not understand the impact of this omission when she was filling out her will-related paperwork herself.

It is important to construct an estate plan so that your wishes will be respected upon your death. However, your wishes may be challenged, skewed, misunderstood or manipulated if you do not seek expert legal counsel when you are constructing your will.

Source: ABA Journal, “Estate dispute caused by ‘E-Z Legal Form’ is a ‘cautionary tale,’ says justice,” Debra Cassens Weiss, April 3, 2014

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