Is a Penny Saved a Penny Earned?

Recently, a number of websites have started offering online Will preparation services. Your humble author reviewed a number of these Wills and they have ranged in quality from surprisingly good to not worth the paper they were printed on.

This blog post aims to warn you of the trouble that can be caused by fill-in-the-blank Wills. At a minimum, an internet Will should involve an interview process where you are asked a series of questions before your Will is prepared.

Avoid fill-in-the-blank Wills like the plague. It is theoretically possible to swim across the Amazon its widest berth without getting eaten by piranhas or crocodiles but why risk it?

Horror Story 1 – The Unloved Wife

Husband and wife prepare and sign “fill in the blank” Will. This is their only marriage, and they have two precocious children age 2 and 4.

Their largest assets by far is husband’s separate property house which he purchased before marriage that they are living in.

Husband’s Will says to leave everything his children in equal shares.

Do you see anything wrong with this plan?

Is it a good idea for a two-year-old and a four-year-old to hold title to real estate, much less the home their Mother is using to raise them? Do we want to spend thousands of dollars in the guardianship process to ensure the children can hold title to the real estate? Are the kids going to help with the mortgage payments?

Husband clearly meant to say everything to his spouse, then only if the spouse is deceased do his assets go the children in equal shares. However, when you have a fill-in-the-blank Will, there’s no safety net to ensure that what you intended to say is what actually gets put into the Will.

Horror Story 2 – The Prodigal Son

Father, a widower, dies and wants to leave his estate equally to his two sons. One son is financially responsible and the other . . . let us say that the prodigal son is on a first name basis with his debt collectors.

Father has near brush with death on 620 and decides to make a Will. Father completes a fill-in-the-blank Will naming responsible son as Executor of his estate and instructing him to split his estate equally between both sons.

A few weeks later, Father gets a call from prodigal son who informs him that he is filing for bankruptcy. The stress causes Father to have a heart attack and die on the spot.

The bankruptcy trustee in prodigal son’s bankruptcy case finds out that prodigal son has an inheritance headed his way and sends a demand letter to responsible son instructing responsible son to hand over any portion of prodigal son’s inheritance to pay off prodigal son’s mountain of unpaid debts.

Do you think Father intended for prodigal son’s inheritance to get eaten up by creditors? What if prodigal son had children and Father had wanted to provide for their education or special needs?

This could have been avoid by setting up a Texas spendthrift trust for prodigal son’s benefit designed to shield prodigal son’s inheritance from his creditors.

Unfortunately, your humble author has yet to see a single fill-in-the-blank Will with this powerful asset protection feature (knock on wood).

Conclusion

Fill-in-the-blank Wills are probably the cheapest Wills you can find. However, based on what this author has seen, this is certainly a case of getting what you pay for!

Learn more about your options at our next free Wine & Wills event.

By: Mike Carroll