Oregon residents frequently search for free legal forms and that includes wills. There is no approved State of Oregon Last Will and Testament form which allows legal document companies to take advantage of this market and tempt hapless consumers into saving legal fees.
Estate planning should not be a do-it-yourself activity and free Oregon will forms are the worst way to make this attempt. Here are four reasons why you need to stop wasting time finding a free form online and instead, call an Oregon estate planning attorney.
They are unlikely to be helpful
It takes effort to find a free will form online. Legal document services like LegalZoom charge for the service as they guide you through a series of questions. This is standard in this industry and in most cases, you will pay $30 to $100 for the service.
If you come across a free form, it is either extremely basic or without guarantees of legal validity. Most have not been evaluated by an attorney and are often thrown together by lay people hoping to attract website hits.
AllLaw offers a paid service to customize a will but also includes this free will form. You have to cut and paste the text from the window to start drafting and there is little guidance. The form contains a warning that it is not reviewed by legal counsel and exists only for educational purposes:
Even if your search reveals a form that appears legitimate and may even been drafted by an attorney, you still do not know for certain if it is appropriate FOR YOU. A free form is often not the solution to your estate planning issues but the beginning of new ones.
They don’t make you think
Most will forms are fill-in-the-blank projects that make the task appear easier than it is in reality. Completing will forms feels more like filling out information for a Costco membership than making serious long term plans. This underestimation of your will’s importance does not help you design a good estate plan.
Mainly, you may avoid giving your circumstances the consideration they require. When you visit an attorney’s office for estate planning, you have an opportunity to discuss your concerns, ask questions and talk about “what ifs.” This discussion arms you with the information you need to make the decisions THAT ARE RIGHT FOR YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES. With fill-in-the-blanks forms, your focus is on filling in the blanks–not understanding the consequences of those decisions.
For example, specific property requests may seem benign. Here is where you can bequeath everything from your collection of glass miniatures to your car:
This can have three possible effects. You can make property awards that are not enforceable, like to your minor children. This adds time to the probate process as the court attempts to create a trust or appoint a conservator to manage your children’s assets until they reach adulthood.
Also, if you award too much property to a family member on government benefits, that bequest could render them ineligible and cause hardship. There are other ways to protect vulnerable dependents that will not kill their access to vital benefit programs.
Finally, some people will feel the need to list every item of property in this section which is time-consuming and usually unnecessary. It can become confusing if any of the property is no longer in your possession when you pass away.
Even if your estate is simple, reviewing circumstances with an attorney assures you cover important aspects and create an effective estate plan with no doubt as to your intentions. You also avoid the impacts of well-intentioned but poor decisions.
They are generic
Will forms of all types are an attempt to make one size fit all. This never works with estate planning and even if your situation is typical, the form may still not be appropriate. People and their estates are diverse and an estate plan perfect for one client rarely works for anyone else.
For example, these two paragraphs will not help you if you are single and simply fill in the blanks. You may have to change spouse to “friend” or “live in partner”:
Additionally, will forms frequently contain provisions that may not be necessary for your situation. If you are single, have charitable aspirations, and never had children, there is no need to designate a trust for minor children (which occupies two pages of this particular will form). That is an unnecessary distraction that prevents you from addressing other matters and may lead you to overlook important aspects of your estate.
There’s no accounting for special circumstances
As indicated above, there are estate planning decisions that can lead to dire consequences. If you care for an older relative or an adult child with special needs, you must handle bequests to them VERY carefully.
For many clients, it may be their first instinct to grant a special-needs child or older relative a large amount of money. If these individuals receive disability payments, Medicare or Medicaid, that decision can cancel out their eligibility. This introduces new complications as your adult dependents attempt to secure health insurance or stretch out the payment to cover all their daily needs.
However, if you see an Oregon estate planning attorney, you can learn about your options. A trust preserves your assets for these family members and allows them to receive payouts from your estate without sacrificing benefits. When you take the do-it-yourself route with a free will form, you may not execute this plan correctly and place your family at risk.
Correct execution becomes more challenging
Your will is not complete until it is executed. This includes your initial on every page, your signature at the end, and the notarized signatures of two witnesses. That end step could be the most challenging aspect of finalizing your will.
On your own, it can take effort to assure your witnesses and notary are available at the same time. Finding witnesses can be a challenge too. It is possible to use relatives as witnesses, even if they are beneficiaries. But attorneys often do not recommend it because that leaves wills VERY vulnerable to court challenges.
Your safest witnesses are disinterested parties with no connection to your will or estate. When you go through an estate attorney, those ready-witnesses include law office staff. Also, every law office contains notaries which make it easy to finalize your will in one appointment.
These logistics are often challenging enough that probate attorneys sometimes see do-it-yourself wills without witnesses or a notary block. That renders the will invalid and you end up with an intestate estate.
Free advice is worth what you pay for and Oregon will forms are the same way! If you want to draft a will without paying excessive legal fees, contact Diane L. Gruber, Attorney at Law to schedule a consultation.