Some people try to save money by preparing legal documents on their own, or with the aid of do-it-yourself books or computer programs, and sometimes their penny-pinching results in their wishes not being upheld.
The laws of most states set forth specific requirements to make various legal documents valid. Individuals without legal background in real estate law often make mistakes by preparing deeds without attorneys. Problems may include errors in the legal description, omitting required signers of the deed, omitting language required to say how the recipient holds title, or failing to meet proper witness and acknowledgment requirements. Some such errors can make a deed invalid, and some can make a deed voidable.
The laws involving execution of wills, trusts and other documents that pass estates after death are much more detailed and complicated. Hand-written documents generally are not valid. People often do not answer questions on computer-based estate planning software correctly, or do not have the document signed, witnessed and notarized correctly, resulting in the attempt being completely invalid and ineffective.
A recent Florida Supreme Court case, Aldrich vs. Basile, involves a decedent who used software, and stated that specific assets would pass to a person, and if that person did not survive, would pass to another person. But the decedent failed to have a “residuary” clause. That is, the will only listed specific items, and did not say that anything else would pass to a beneficiary. Thus the will was ineffective as to another asset that was not listed. Then the decedent tried to amend the will by simply writing a note, which was not witnessed, and that amendment was also ineffective.
If you want to know that a legal document will be upheld, it is wise to use an attorney qualified in the specific area of law to prepare the documents rather than trying to scrimp, and possibly costing you or your heirs much more in the long run.