Do It Yourself?

Whether you are looking to do research, self-diagnose yourself with an illness, or prepare legal documents, the Internet makes it seemingly easy to take on a do-it-yourself approach to multiple tasks.

Many people choose DIY because of the money perceived savings, but often the consequences are more costly than hiring a professional. This is becoming common with legal documents, as online providers boast cheap prices and claim they use the same documents experienced attorneys use.

One area where DIY legal documents are particularly risky is Estate Planning. Estate planning documents are essential to protecting your assets and transferring wealth and possessions to your family or other desired recipients. Having professionally drafted documents are invaluable to ensure they will stand up against challenges and scrutiny when it is time to enact your wishes.

A recent case in the Florida Supreme Court exemplifies the pitfalls of do-it-yourself wills. The will of Ann Aldrich came into dispute because it lacked a residuary clause that spelled out how assets Aldrich acquired after her will was composed were to be allocated.

Aldrich wrote her own will using “E-Z Legal Form” in 2004. In this will she left the entirety of her assets to her sister, Mary Eaton. Aldrich’s will also specified that if Eaton died before Aldrich, the estate was to be transferred solely to Aldrich’s brother, James Aldrich. What this will failed to address is who would be the recipient of assets Ms. Aldrich gained between the drafting of her will in 2004 and her death in 2007.

Upon Aldrich’s passing, her two nieces contested the transfer of all her assets to Eaton, citing that Aldrich’s will did not specify her recently acquired assets and therefore should not be considered as part of the original will.

Even though the nieces were not designated in the will, the court ruled in their favor and awarded them a portion of this estate against the wishes of Aldrich, because Aldrich’s DIY will did not include the necessary residuary clause to protect her property that was not specifically listed.

Further details about this case can be found in the ABAJournal online at

If you have used “LegalZoom” or any other “E-Z” legal forms, consider meeting with an attorney who can review these documents to ensure your estate is protected. Our office offers free initial consultations in which we will meet with you at no obligation to go over your documents and determine if your assets are protected from creditors and predators in the event of your death or incapacitation.

-Davis Schilken