Writing your own will may seem convenient, but a document that fails to address all the legal complexities of an estate in Arkansas could create serious issues after your passing.
There are countless online services and software programs that claim they can help you create a will that securely reflects your last wishes. Unfortunately, the cheap price tag on these options can also reflect the quality of a document that is supposed to establish your plans for your estate. Making a will without a lawyer creates room for error that can be incredibly costly for your family or the charitable organizations that you have chosen as beneficiaries. The following information lays out five reasons that people should rely on qualified lawyers for wills in Arkansas.
1. Family Dynamics Can Be Complicated
Making a will without a lawyer can create obstacles when it comes to complicated family situations. The ready-made wills that are created through software programs or online templates rarely account for the legal considerations that must be made if:
- You have children who are minors
- You have no children
- You have troubled children
- You have recently been divorced
- Your spouse died recently
- You have been remarried
- You are in a same-sex relationship
- You must make provisions for the long-term care of an elderly or disabled relative
- You want to disinherit your spouse
- You believe your will may be contested by family members who question your mental capacities
An experienced Arkansas lawyer can write your will with these special cases in mind and answer any questions you may have about their possible effects on your estate.
2. Financial Dynamics Can Be Complicated
Even if your family situation is simple, it is wise to consult with an Arkansas lawyer for your will if your estate is particularly large or complicated. Estate planning experts will likely discourage you from using one-size-fits-all wills that are created online if:
- You have assets in multiple states or countries
- You have more than $1 million in assets
- You are a business owner and partners own a portion of your venture
- You have future conditions that beneficiaries must meet to inherit your estate
- You want to leave some or all of your estate to charity
- You have substantial 401(k) or IRA assets
3. Wills Are Subject to Arkansas Laws
Arkansas laws can create headaches for people who choose to make a will without a lawyer. Because these documents have such significant implications for estates, state legislation has been passed that requires certain guidelines to be met for them to be legally sound. For example, witnesses must be present for your will to be considered authentic, and choosing your witnesses incorrectly could lead to problems. It should come as no surprise that witnesses must be at least 18 years old and considered mentally competent, but it is also a good idea to choose witnesses who are disinterested, meaning that they are not beneficiaries. Having only beneficiaries as witnesses or failing to have enough disinterested witnesses on hand can lead to provisions in the will being considered invalid. A lawyer can help you make sure your will abides by these guidelines and other obscure Arkansas laws that could create issues.
4. Ambiguity Can Lead to Trouble
A 2012 Consumer Reports article titled “Legal DIY Websites Are No Match for a Pro” reviewed three of the most popular online will-creation websites and arrived at a startling conclusion. While many people use LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer to create their wills, the law professors interviewed by Consumer Reports felt the programs were inflexible and were not always tailored to the jurisdictions in which users live. These drawbacks can lead to ambiguous wording in your will that needs to be addressed in court. The legal costs of sorting out an ambiguous provision may be taken out of your estate and reduce the overall amount that is left for your loved ones once the issue has been settled.
5. Wills Can Create Tax Burdens
While Arkansas does not have estate or inheritance taxes, the federal government does. Additionally, if you own assets in other states, their taxes can apply as well. Making a will without an Arkansas lawyer can mean that a sizable portion of your estate will evaporate before your loved ones ever receive it. Depending on the size and type of your estate, a legal expert can help you minimize the amount of money that could be subject to estate taxes and ensure the liquidity of your assets so that your beneficiaries will be able to pay the necessary taxes without a significant burden after your passing.
If you want to avoid the pitfalls of making a will without a lawyer in Arkansas, contact McHughes Law Firm at (501) 376-9131 to schedule your free legal consultation.