Do-It-Yourself Will Leads to an Unfortunate Result

Do-It-Yourself Will

I wanted to share yet another example of how people try and create their own wills using a form taken from a book or the Internet, and wind up shooting themselves in the foot.

I recently spoke with a client whose brother, who we’ll call “Mr. Clark,” from Michigan wanted his estate to go to only two of his five children. Mr. Clark wrote a "do-it-yourself will" in which he left his pickup truck to his daughter, Samantha and his summer home to his son, Sonny. He also stated that he was intentionally leaving his other three children out of the will.

The problem? Other than the truck and the summer home, the will never specifically stated what would happen to the rest of Mr. Clark's property. While Mr. Clark presumably wanted it to be divided between Samantha and Sonny, he never spelled this out. The rest of the property was worth about $500,000, and the children all went to court to argue about it. A judge eventually ruled that, under Michigan law, the $500,000 had to be divided equally among all five children – even though Mr. Clark had deliberately tried to cut the other three out of the will.

If Mr. Clark had consulted an attorney about his estate plan, he would have gotten the result he wanted, and he would have also spent far less than his children ended up spending trying (and failing) to untangle his mistakes.