DIY Estate Planning Hazards: Why you shouldn’t go it alone

DIY estate planning - Martinson & Beason, P.C.It can be tempting to go about your estate planning alone. The process may seem easy enough, and you can save money by just downloading a few forms online and doing it yourself. We get it. But you should know that it’s not as easy as it looks, and even the tiniest mistake can cause problems of epic proportions down the road.

Unconvinced? A U.S. News article “The Dangers of DIY Estate Planning” details why you shouldn’t go it alone. The more complicated your estate is, the more likely it is that you need the help of an attorney. While a DIY estate planning document can sometimes be, at the very least, better than nothing at all, it’s worth it for yourself and your family to consider getting an attorney.

Here’s why:

  • People tend to make mistakes completing these forms: Estate planning forms can be complicated. And one question answered incorrectly or one aspect overlooked can cause major problems in the future. A survey by LegalZoom, provider of DIY documents, found that a staggering 75% of married couples “lack a legal document that names a guardian for their children.” This means that, if the couple passes away before their children reach adult age, a court—not the family—will have the power to appoint a guardian for their children.
  • The documents are filled with legal mumbo-jumbo. This can be confusing for many people and can cause them to do something they hadn’t intended. The article gives the example of “durable power of attorney,” a document that gives another person the power to handle your finances if you are unable to do so yourself. The person you make your power of attorney could steal from you if they aren’t trustworthy.
  • Documents need to be executed correctly. The requirements for executing documents can vary from state to state, which makes it harder for individuals to do it themselves. Certain documents may need to only be signed; others may need to have one or more witnesses to your signature. If the documents aren’t executed properly, they may be rendered invalid—thus undoing all of your planning.
  • Wills and other documents can have holes. A lawyer can help you realistically plan for circumstances you might not have considered had you written the will by yourself. What happens if your children die before you? What happens if you get a divorce? What happens if you get more grandchildren? If you don’t consider these factors, your will could have holes that can cause errors or disputes later.

In order to save money when planning your estate, make sure that you discuss the costs in advance with an attorney and determine which services you truly need.

In the end, no matter which route you go with, it’s important that you update your estate plan every couple of years, or at least after major life events like getting married, having children, a divorce, buying a home, etc.

To get your estate planning questions answered by an experienced and understanding estate planning attorney, contact Martinson & Beason, P.C. today.