A lot of people consider estate planning to be pretty low on their list of priorities. And when they finally do get around to creating the documents that they need to protect their assets and their loved ones, they sometimes try to cut corners to save time and money.
If you find yourself turning to online resources and self-help guides in order to create your own estate plan, then you need to slow down and carefully consider the risk you may be putting yourself in. After all, one seemingly minor misstep during the estate planning process can have disastrous consequences for your estate and your family.
The dangers of creating your own estate planning documents
Even though you can obtain a lot of information and guidance from the internet, you need to be aware of the risks associated with DIY estate planning. Here are just some of them:
- Templates may not conform to state law: A lot of estate planning templates out there are generic. This means that they may not conform to state law. If it turns out that those documents are non-conforming to applicable statutes, then your estate plan may be deemed legally invalid.
- Online resources aren’t detailed: One of the greatest benefits of estate planning is that it is a wholly customizable process. But you might not know that if you’re only turning to online resources. Sure, you might gain some insight into the most commonly utilized estate planning tools, but you could be missing out on a more nuanced approach that’s best suited for your needs. Remember, too, that a lack of detail could lead to confusion when your estate is ready for distribution.
- DIY estate planning may prove to be more costly: If the legal validity of your estate plan is drawn into question, then your estate may end up being subjected to lengthy and costly litigation. This can decrease the value of your estate and lead to infighting that can devastate familial relationships. Do you really want to risk that sort of outcome?
- Lack of accountability: The internet is the wild west of resources. You might get lucky and find something that works, but what if you don’t? You can’t hold anyone accountable except for yourself. By working with an attorney, though, you can ensure that your plan is created by someone who knows and understands applicable laws. You can then hold your attorney accountable for the plan that he or she creates on your behalf.
- DIY estate plans aren’t comprehensive: Most self-help guides on estate planning only address the most basic of estate planning documents. This means that your estate plan will probably have glaring holes. For example, your estate plan might not have a power of attorney or healthcare directive to address your financial and healthcare decisions in the event of incapacitation. Your DIY estate plan might also lack clear instructions as far as your child’s future care and custody, and you may not utilize the trusts that you need to enjoy tax benefits and effectively plan for long-term care.
Don’t leave your estate plan to chance
Even those who have a modest estate have a lot to lose when they engage in inadequate estate planning. That’s why we discourage our readers from trying to create estate planning documents on their own. Time and again, we’ve guided our clients through the estate planning process to ensure that their estates and their loved ones are as fully protected as possible. This usually leaves them feeling relieved and with peace of mind. If you’d like that sort of assistance on your side, then now may be the time to discuss what you want out of your estate plan with an estate planning attorney of your choosing.