The Case Against Do-It-Yourself Wills – Celebrity Mistakes

A
will is one of the most important financial planning documents, especially as
you move toward retirement. Yet an astonishing number of people of all ages
still don't have one.

Purveyors
of do-it-yourself books, software and online forms are trying to change that.
The cookie cutter documents they sell to help you generate a will cost a
fraction of what many lawyers charge. Fueled by the technological revolution,
these products have proliferated in recent years, with at least a dozen offered
online, plus many books and assorted boxed software.

Why
am I strenuously opposed to do-it-yourself wills? There are just so many things
that can go wrong–from the wording of the document, to the required
formalities for how it must be signed and witnessed before it can be valid,
states Forbes Magazine.

Mistake: Not Changing Will – Charles Kuralt

Story: One
sad example involved Charles Kuralt, the CBS News correspondent and anchor.
Several weeks before he died in 1997, he penned a note to Patricia Elizabeth
Shannon, his mistress for 29 years, promising to leave her 90 acres and a
renovated schoolhouse near the Montana fishing retreat where they spent time
together. After Kuralt's death, his family and Shannon spent six years in court
fighting over whether this note was a valid amendment to the 1994 will that a
lawyer had prepared, or simply a promise to revise the document–a promise that
Kuralt never carried out. The Montana court awarded Shannon the $600,000 property
but stuck Kuralt's family with all the estate taxes.

Mistake: Never writing a will. – Jimi Hendrix

Story: Music legend Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970
without a will. Under state law, his dad, Al, got everything, leaving
his close brother Leon with nothing. Al built Hendrix's musical legacy
into an $80 million venture, but in his own will cut out Leon and his
family, in favor of his adopted daughter through a later marriage.

Mistake: Relying on a "letter of wishes" to give away belongings – Princess Di

Story: At her death in 1997, Princess Diana left a
detailed will, naming her sister and mother as executors. She also wrote
a separate "letter of wishes" asking her executors, at their
discretion, to divide her belongings among her sons and her 17
godchildren. But instead of getting stuff worth an estimated 100,000
pounds, each godchild got only a trinket.

Mistake: Not updating documents – Heath Ledger

Story: When actor Heath Ledger died at age 28 in 2008, he had a will,
but it was written three years before he died, prior to his
relationship with Michelle Williams and the birth of their daughter,
Matilda Rose. The will left everything to his parents and sister. When
Ledger's uncles raised fears that his father wouldn't properly care for
Matilda Rose, Ledger's father said he would.

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