“Suze Orman” online Will form – Beware.
By: Peter R. Certo, Jr. Attorney at Law, Chair, Probate and Estate Planning Group, Altick Corwin
Not too long ago I was presented with a Last Will and Testament prepared by a recently deceased woman, by herself, from an online source. The form allegedly came from a “Suze Orman” website. Well, there are problems. I suspect the individual presumed it was a reputable site and the forms could be trusted. Bad presumption.
When reviewing contracts I have said, very often the problem is not what a document says, the problem is what the document does not say. Most written documents look reasonable on first glance, they are designed that way on purpose.
The form “Suze Orman” Will assumes the State statute grants the executor has all the powers necessary to administer an estate, no specific powers are mentioned or granted in her form. The problem here in Ohio is that the statute does NOT grant the executor all the powers they need to effectively administer someone’s estate. There are additional powers that need to be added. One critical power is the “power to sell property”. Without the specific grant of that power in the will, the executor cannot sell any property. Thus, if cars, household goods, stocks, bonds and real estate need to be sold to pay bills or provide distribution to heirs, the executor has no authority to sell them. In this estate we now have to file additional pleadings with the court, and request the probate judge to grant permission to sell each property item.
This will cause the estate to incur more time, delay, courts costs and attorney fees than should be necessary with a properly drafted simple Will. A much bigger problem is that this estate also involves a house and it is very possible that a separate law suit, called a “land sale action” may need to be filed. This would be very costly and time consuming.
Even Suze Orman should know the phrase, “penny wise, pound foolish”.