What Could Go Wrong? Plenty, With Do-It-Yourself Wills

You may never know the impact of a DIY will, but your heirs certainly will. This is an instance where having a professional involved makes a world of difference.

We’re used to doing everything online ourselves, from making movies to creating photo books and shopping for car loans. But there are some things, including estate planning, which really can’t be reduced to a series of forms and algorithms. The attraction is convenience and cost, but the downside is considerable.

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.

The likelihood is high that a lay person will make mistakes when drafting their own will, or creating a trust or power of attorney documents. Here’s one thing the online sites don’t tell you: estate planning documents riddled with errors are more likely to be challenged in court, where errors or omissions will not be treated lightly. A better way to protect those you love: sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney. They will create a comprehensive plan that suits your needs and complies with the laws of your state.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (August 6, 2017) “DIY Estate Planning Has Its Risks