We prefer to think of ourselves as having fairly simple and straight-forward lives. That’s why many people think that they can create their own estate plan. The problem is, most people don’t learn what kind of mistakes they’ve made until after the DIY-er has passed away, and then, it’s too late.
Remember, you can’t come back to sign a new will.
The South Bend (IN) Tribune explains in its recent article, “You can do your own estate plan, but should you?” how one attorney was sorting out the $12 million estate of a man who thought his situation was straightforward enough to use do-it-yourself software. However, his errors resulted in a situation where his executors didn’t have sufficient money to pay the estate’s taxes. That’s led to conflicts among the heirs, delays and legal fees.
A 2016 Gallup Poll survey found that only 44% of Americans have a will. That means most people don’t have a plan to guide their families or instruct who will take care of their minor children.
You should ask an estate planning attorney for a basic will, powers of attorney for financial decisions and other matters, a living will and a healthcare directive.
You might also need a living trust, which is an alternative to wills designed to avoid probate.
One of the most valuable services an estate planning attorney can provide, is the time to discuss your situation with a legal expert who has worked on many estate plans—and who knows all of the pitfalls.
If you use an online form, you don’t get this personalized consultation and the ability to ask your attorney to walk you through the steps so you understand the process. That conversation provides a level of comfort regarding how this would play out for you and for your family.
I know some people believe this view is the self-serving view of an estate planning attorney, but as I tell people, you can take a $5000 engagement for an estate plan and turn it into a $50,000 engagement because of the difficulties of correcting the mistakes that were made.
Even those advocating self-help options, admit that some situations aren’t appropriate for DIY.
If you’ve got a multi-million dollar estate, a disabled family member who has or needs to have a Special Needs Trust, or if yours is a blended family, you need an experienced estate planning attorney. If you own a business, you need an estate planning attorney. The same is true for those who own property in foreign countries. Your life may feel simple to you, but your estate plan is anything but simple!
Reference: South Bend (IN) Tribune (February 6, 2018) “You can do your own estate plan, but should you?”