people reviewing legal documentsThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing issues to be considered when preparing a Last Will and Testament in Hartford, Connecticut. Our previous article addressed the need to periodically review and update one’s Will to ensure that the document accounts for changes in family situations, life events, and changes in one’s estate planning objectives. Failing to do so may result in unintended consequences regarding the distribution of one’s assets or disagreements among family members who are already grieving your loss. Avoiding these problems is one reason individuals create Wills in the first place. Keeping the document updated to reflect your current needs is, therefore, imperative. In this article, we will address the importance of retaining a law firm with estate planning knowledge when preparing your Will. If you need assistance, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

In the age of the internet, numerous online resources help us navigate daily life. Research that may have previously required days or hours is now available at the touch of a button. While most of us rely heavily on these tools, it is important to understand that legal advice, particularly regarding estate planning, should come from licensed attorneys with expertise in this area of law. Do-it-yourself websites present an attractive alternative to many families who believe that attorney services are too expensive. Such sites convince people that they can cheaply create their own Will without involving a lawyer. Unfortunately, these products can create a false sense of security in the context of creating an estate plan. As we have previously discussed in this series, Connecticut has specific formalities that must be followed in order for a Will to be valid and enforceable. One-size-fits-all solutions often overlook these formalities, generate unclear documents, and result in invalid Wills for their patrons.

Consider the following example. Joe and Mary are friends who decide they each need to prepare a Will. Mary consults with an attorney who, after their initial consultation, creates a document that addresses Mary’s specific needs and wishes. The lawyer’s version meets all of the legally required formalities to be enforceable under Connecticut law. In addition, her attorney identifies items Mary had not thought about and addresses those issues so that her objectives will be accomplished when she passes. Joe, on the other hand, pays $100 to an internet resource, and purchases a form document entitled “Last Will and Testament.” The document has several blanks, which he attempts to complete. He does not really understand the wording but believes that his family knows him well enough to follow his verbal instructions if there is a problem with the Will. He signs it at home, alone, and puts it into his filing cabinet. Joe may have saved a few dollars, but he has just created a Will that is unenforceable under Connecticut law. He failed to have the document witnessed by two independent witnesses, which failure invalidates the Will. Even if he had met the witness requirement, the ambiguous document may create additional problems for his beneficiaries who would be forced to interpret an unclear Will.

For something as important as creating a Last Will and Testament, we recommend seeking legal advice from an estate planning professional to ensure that your final wishes can be implemented as planned. If you need assistance, contact our office today to speak with a Hartford lawyer. Our attorneys also serve the areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.