Recently, my friend and colleague Benjamin Glass made me aware of a case that was recently decided in Florida. The Supreme Court of Florida decided a case regarding a form will document on March 27, 2014 that addressed the inadequacy of the form document. In this case, a dispute arose regarding the proper interpretation of the will.
In the opinion, the Supreme Court Judge pointed out that the commercially available form document that the testator used (the deceased person who signed the will) did not adequately address her specific needs and gave the testator no clue that perhaps there was a thought process to be considered (in this case about property that was acquired after the will was signed). In cases like these, a do-it-yourself will doesn’t work.
The Judge stated “I therefore take this opportunity to highlight a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing preprinted forms and drafting a will without legal assistance.”
Although I don’t get the question often from clients as to why they need a lawyer and can’t they just do this estate planning stuff on Legal Zoom, it occasionally still happens. My answer is always the same. “Because you have no legal advice with Legal Zoom or any other online or form estate planning vendor.” It’s kind of like going online to fix a medical condition or a broken arm. Could you possibly find some relevant information online about what it is that you think is wrong with you and how to fix it? Of course. Might you mess yourself up by trying to cure yourself without medical guidance? Of course.
There is a reason that doctors and lawyers must endure so much formal education and pass a rigorous exam at the end of their schooling (and then have years and years of practical training).
To check out the opinion in this case, see Aldrich v. Basile, 2014 WL 1240073, Supreme Court of Florida.