With all the available online resources, most people erroneously believe that they should avoid hiring an attorney and create their estate plan online. While it may be tempting to create your own estate plan for under $50 on a legal DIY website, realistically, you probably will end up paying more for it in the long run. You may even end up paying more than if you had just hired an experienced estate planning attorney to create your estate plan.
Case in point, a few years back, an independent nonprofit consumer watchdog group Consumer Reports® went through the process of creating wills using DIY websites and then enlisted three different law professors to review the wills. Notably, the law professors stated that the wills were better than the average will drafted by individuals who are not lawyers. However, they still failed to fully meet the legal needs of most individuals and families.
A Comprehensive Estate Plan Includes More Than Just a Will.
Without an experienced estate planning attorney’s guidance, most individuals erroneously believe that their estate plan starts and ends with just a will. However, even if your will is valid and meets your state’s legal requirements, a standalone will unlikely address all of your estate planning needs and goals. Specifically, an online DIY package may not include other important estate planning documents that you probably didn’t even know you needed.
Overall, you probably are not aware of all of your state’s requirements without experience and legal training. You will also probably fail to include all the necessary documents. This lack of experience and legal knowledge can create unnecessary confusion and heartache for your family, friends, and loved ones when you pass away. However, you can avoid this by just hiring an experienced attorney.
Your DIY Estate Plan May Not Be Recognized Under Your State Law.
The rules and regulations governing your estate plan are determined by your home state. As such, estate planning laws vary across the country. As such, while you may find estate planning documents online that purport to conform to your state’s law, this may not be the case. Also, keep in mind that if you own property in another state or even live in another state part-time, the other state’s laws may be drastically different from your home state. This means that your DIY estate plan created online may not fully protect you or account for your property in another state.
Your DIY Estate Plan Could Be Incomplete or Be Inaccurate.
Since you will likely be creating your DIY estate plan using an online questionnaire, it’s a good possibility that you don’t understand all the questions or even know how to answer them. You may leave out important information that could significantly impact your estate plan. Moreover, some DIY platforms allow their users to insert information if they feel the questionnaire did not address all their issues. However, there is no way for users to know if they are inserting information contradictory to other parts of their will or estate plan without sufficient legal training.
Your DIY Estate Plan Could Be Inadequate If Your Situation Changes In The Future.
Our lives change regularly. As such, while your estate plan may be adequate when you create it, it may be insufficient should your circumstances unexpectedly change. For example, what happens if you have additional children after you create your will, and your firstborn is your sole beneficiary? Or what happens to your estate if your sole beneficiary passes away before you? What happens to your estate if you divide it amongst your two children, but one of them predeceases you? What happens if your beneficiary has a lot of debt? Will their inheritance be protected from their creditors? Frankly, a computer program can’t anticipate these potential changes or contingencies. However, an experienced estate planning attorney can anticipate and play out several scenarios and create an estate plan that anticipates these changes to ensure that your family is protected when you pass away.
Your Estate Plan May Not be Executed Properly.
Every state has its own requirements for the proper execution of a will and other documents. For example, most states typically require at least two signatures for a will to be valid. Additionally, most states require that your witness be signing the document in the maker and the other witnesses’ presence. While in some states, the witnesses do not have to be in the same room with the maker. They may be permitted to sign the document later as long as they can verify that the maker’s signature is valid. In any event, things can get even more complicated if a witness also has an interest in the will or is otherwise a beneficiary to the will. Some states won’t allow interested persons to act as a witness to a will. As it pertains to a power of attorney, most states require that the person who is granting power have their signature notarized. On the other hand, some states require both the person granting power of attorney and the person who will be acting on behalf of the person to both have their signatures notarized.
You May Unintentionally Leave Assets Out of Your DIY Estate Plan.
Many individuals who are not attorneys or legal professionals rarely understand that creating a trust is typically a better estate planning tool than creating a will. Creating a trust avoids probate proceedings, which are expensive and also require a lot of time. Your heirs will have to go through the probate process to transfer your property and money to the appropriate beneficiary if you convey all your assets solely through a will. Furthermore, if you create a trust online and you do not properly fund it by transferring your property and money or other assets into the name of the trust, the trust will be essentially ineffective, and your loved ones will still have to go through probate. Also, keep in mind that you must transfer those assets into the trust if you acquire additional property or assets over the years. If you don’t, your friends and family will still have to go through probate for any property not titled through the trust. Regular meetings with your probate or estate planning attorney can prevent these types of issues from arising. It ensures that your estate plan is up to date and included in your trust documents, so your loved ones don’t have to initiate probate proceedings.
Contact Us For Your Estate Planning Needs.
Overall, a DIY estate plan is rarely a good idea. Specifically, individuals often have a false sense of security, but frequently those estate plans fall short of protecting the individual’s assets, or even worse, it is completely invalid. If the estate plan you create yourself is invalid, your money will not go to the people you chose. Instead, it will go to your heirs according to your state laws. Also, an unfunded trust is effectively like not having trust at all, as it will be invalid and ineffective.
Lastly, estate planning laws frequently change, and if you are not an experienced estate planning attorney or legal professional, you may not know about any of those changes. Not knowing the most up-to-date laws can cost you and your family a lot of time and heartache. Experienced estate planning attorneys like us are up to date on the current laws that may affect your estate plan. As such, we can create a comprehensive plan to fit your goals even if your life circumstances change throughout the years.
Give us a call today so that we can provide you with a comprehensive estate plan. This should give your peace of mind knowing that your family, friends, and loved ones are taken care of when you pass away. You also help your family avoid high attorney fees and minimize conflict between your friends and family when you pass away.
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