With the holidays approaching and the new year not far behind, we thought we would take a little time to discuss the important issue of DIY estate planning, and the potential dangers it involves. Like other legal areas, estate planning is not something that requires you to hire a lawyer. There is no law that requires you to hire an attorney if you want to create a last will and testament. Not only that, but there are many websites, companies, and products that advertise their ability to help you craft a DIY estate plan without having to pay a lawyer a single dime.
However, like other legal areas, proceeding without the advice and guidance of an experienced attorney can be a significant mistake. Here are several reasons why choosing DIY estate planning could backfire.
DIY estate plans aren’t legal advice.
The main difference between a DIY estate plan and one you make with your attorney’s assistance boils down to one word: advice. Your attorney can give you advice about not only what you can do, but what you should do. No DIY tool can do this. While a guide can tell you what you might have to do to make your plan legal, no guide can ever inform you about all the possibilities, or tell you what you should do in your particular circumstances.
You probably won’t be around to find out if you did it right.
When people create an estate plan, they do so because they are looking ahead to a time when they might no longer be around. Whether you’re incapacitated or dead, your estate plan will be there to express your wishes when you cannot.
But what if you made a mistake? What if you made a DIY estate plan that had a serious problem? You won’t be there to fix it, and because of that, your plan could effectively be worthless.
Laws change, but your DIY estate plan will probably stay the same.
Another common flaw that so many DIY estate plans have is that they remain static. People who make their own plans are often not legal professionals, and don’t keep up to date of the numerous changes in the law that take place every year. Whether these changes are major or minor, your plan might need to change in light of them. However, should you choose to make a DIY estate plan, you will most likely not be able to determine if, and how, your plan should change.
Your estate planning lawyer will be able to keep track of the important changes for you, and notify you when a change takes place that you need to be aware of. Your lawyer will also explain how these changes affect you, and how your plan might need to change in light of them.
Parman & Easterday