Iowa families need to be extremely careful should they decide to try to take their estate planning into their own hands. While the ready availability of pre-printed forms has made people emboldened to try DIY estate planning, courts have made it clear that what actually appears in the will is controlling even if the decedent made an obvious error.

This point was driven home by a recent case in Florida where a woman tried to do her will on her own on a purchased form. While she may have filled everything out correctly, the mistake was made by the person who prepared the pre-printed form. Apparently, they forgot the all-important residuary clause that takes any property inherited after the will was signed and subjects it to the terms of the will.

As a result, the woman’s nieces who were not part of the original will were able to successfully stake their claim to property that the woman acquired after signing her will. This came at the expense of her alternate beneficiary who she had chosen to inherit all of her property.

One of the judges specifically noted how the woman’s attempt to save money caused much more expense and headache because it caused costly litigation. Securing the services of an estate lawyer would have kept this problem from occurring, and there would have been no unintended consequences. When it comes to a will, courts are not interested in what the intent was.

An estate planning lawyer might help avoid costly and unintended situations like these. They can assist in ensuring that all of the required provisions are included in the will. Many people simply do not know when they are making a mistake in a will. Allowing an estate planning attorney to draft a will or to at least review the paperwork could help prevent obvious errors and keep a will out of court. This may mean that beneficiaries can have ownership of their part of the estate much quicker than they otherwise would if the will was contested.