Using online sites to craft estate-planning documents like wills, trusts and powers of attorney can be tempting for some who can’t or don’t care to spend the money for a qualified estate-planning attorney, or for those who need these kinds of paperwork settled quickly. However, there can be significant risks with DIY (Do-It-Yourself) estate planning, particularly if it’s a complex financial situation or the person’s situation requires legal assistance.
The Wall Street Journal reports in its recent story, “DIY Estate Planning Has Its Risks,” that DIY estate planning may work okay for those with uncomplicated estates and who don’t need any trusts or tax planning. However, it depends on what you would call “uncomplicated.”
Those with significant and complicated assets or complex family situations (like blended families) need more-sophisticated advice from a qualified estate planning attorney than what an online site can provide. Trusts, in particular, should be left to an estate-planning attorney.
Much depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and your business and legal knowledge level. Even for an experienced businessman, although the legal terminology might not be confusing, a review by an estate planning attorney would be a good idea.
Are you comfortable knowing that you could be missing something? Many do-it-yourselfers overlook simple and seemingly small things, such as failing to designate a contingent executor or beneficiary. These things become problems, if they’re not addressed. The money you spend on an attorney is for his or her expertise and knowing that you’re not overlooking anything.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Unless you’re a legal professional practicing in this discipline, there will be many nuances and state-specific issues that an experienced estate-planning attorney knows that won’t be part of a generic online program. It can be hard to get comprehensive advice online and apply it to your specific circumstances, such as tax considerations and strategies to avoid probate.
A lay person is more likely than an experienced lawyer to make a mistake in drafting a will, a trust, or power of attorney form. This makes a DIY estate document more susceptible to a challenge by another party. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you navigate more-complex and nuanced issues. He or she will help you to create a comprehensive plan tailored to your needs.
A do-it-yourself will definitely isn’t for everyone.
Reference: The Wall Street Journal (August 6, 2017) “DIY Estate Planning Has Its Risks”