Although using a DIY site to draft a will can save money and time, sometimes doing it this way could lead to expensive and unpleasant estate planning mistakes.
Next Avenue’s article, “The Problems With Do-It-Yourself Online Wills” reported that one DIY estate planning service had typos on its site, and its estate-planning “packages” had the same document labeled with three different names. Even worse, some of these packages were missing a key estate planning document about which very few users would know to ask.
Many DIY estate planning sites have attorneys on staff, but access to specific help for your personal documents is rarely available. If personal advice is offered, it may cost much more to get it.
It is true that many of us would prefer to fill in the blanks in silence, then have to talk to anyone about our doubts or concerns. However, sometimes it helps—a great deal—to get professional advice.
If you prepare your taxes yourself and they end up incorrect, you and the IRS may end up working things out. However, if you decide to do your estate planning by yourself, you will never know the results of your DIY handiwork. Your loved ones will. And it may not be pleasant.
You need to have customized estate planning documents to avoid court involvement, to decrease administrative issues and to know that the job is done. The four basic estate planning documents are a will, a trust, power of attorney for financial matters and an advance health care directive. If you use any of these on a DIY site, you’ll be offered a fill-in-the-blank approach. However, each state has its own probate code, and the software package you use may have different names for these documents.
Some DIY websites have all of these documents for you, but only if you purchase their higher-end packages. Some offer limited attorney consultation, but it can be just a set of drop-down of questions with pre-written responses, rather than an actual conversation with an attorney.
The benefit of using a DIY service is that you’ll have a plan, quickly and cheaply as possible—which may be better than having no plan at all. Many programs presume that you already know what you want. The reality is that many people have no clue what they want or need. When you get into the complexities of family dynamics, with legal terms specific to your state and situation, DIY estate planning can cause more challenges than working with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Reference: Next Avenue (March 29, 2019) “The Problems With Do-It-Yourself Online Wills”