Unintended Inheritances: Another Reason to Avoid DIY Estate Plans

Apr 3, 2010

While retiling the bathroom floor or installing new switch-plates throughout your house may be great DIY weekend projects, writing your own will should not make your to-do list. In the instance that the tile job is botched, you can hire a professional. If you botch your own will, there is nothing you can do or say about it after you are gone. In case there is doubt on the subject, take into account the story of Mr. and Mrs. Sowell and their son, Martin.
The Sowells had a $500,000 dollar estate of which they chose to leave their son $50. This was not just because Martin had not been a wonderful son. Martin had attempted to poison his parents and had furthermore shot his mother multiple times. Although his assassination attempts were unsuccessful, Mr. and Mrs. Sowell did pass away in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Upon their deaths, they concurrently willed to their son $50. However, their homemade wills left the bulk of the estate to the surviving spouse, with no mention of who would be the beneficiary should the spouse not survive. After Mrs. Sowell died, Mr. Sowell failed to update his will, so after he had also passed away, the entire estate passed to the next of kin: their dear son, Martin. So, even after Mr. and Mrs. Sowell tried to in-effect disinherit their murderous son, because of their DIY wills, he stood to inherit everything.
Although most people will not have to worry disinheriting a child because of attempted murder, the message is still the same: Do NOT write your will yourself. There is a high likelihood that your final wishes could be misinterpreted or disregarded due to even the simplest of mistakes.
The only way to ensure that your estate is protected and distributed in the fashion that you determine is to have your wills professionally drawn up by an attorney. Furthermore, wills should be updated periodically, especially if a named beneficiary passes away. If the Sowells had taken either of these steps instead of going the DIY route, their estate would not have landed in the wrong hands.