DIY Estate Planning: Is It Worth the Risks?

Do-it-yourself estate planning is risky and, if you make even the slightest error, it can have serious consequences for your family.

Estate planning involves the preparation of documents relating to the distribution of assets in the event of death. In addition to allocating personal belongings, real property, motor vehicles, and financial wealth, estate planning also involves guardianship of children or other dependents. In other words, estate planning is a way to “wrap things up” so that you can be confident that your wishes will be honored and your family will be provided for after you are deceased. Without any estate planning, the distribution of your assets is left up to the courts, without taking your wishes into account. Because of the monumental importance of providing for your loved ones after your death, it is important to hire a qualified estate planning attorney to provide legal advice and counsel in preparing your estate documents.

However, in the digital age in which we find ourselves, some people choose to do their own estate planning, often with disastrous results. In an attempt to save money, some are tempted go online and order document templates that promise a quick and easy way to handle their affairs. Sadly, many people believe that these documents will protect their assets and their loved ones when, in fact, these templates are overly simplistic, rife with the potential for errors, and woefully generic to meet each person’s individual needs.

There are a multitude of ways in which utilizing do-it-yourself estate planning can have disastrous consequences. First, the average person does not understand estate planning or the legal terms associated with that area of law and therefore is unable to effectively communicate his/her wishes without legal guidance. Second, by attempting to prepare these documents yourself, there is a high risk of errors in the information that you provide: a simple typo, misspelling, or incorrect detail can invalidate an entire bequest. Third, each state has its own extremely stringent document execution rules, and those who do not follow them run the risk of having their documents invalidated. Fourth, estate planning laws and other laws related to distribution of assets, such as property laws, tax laws, and custody laws, change frequently. Without an experienced attorney, it is almost impossible for the average person to keep up with the ever-changing statutes and case law that impact estate planning. Finally, a document template is not tailored to an individual’s specific needs. “One size fits all” is not appropriate for the complex and highly individualistic nature of your assets, your family, and your wishes.

Using DIY estate planning documents may appear to be cost-effective. In reality, the errors and unintended consequences that can result from attempting to do your own estate planning can cost your estate and your family large sums of money. Furthermore, the distribution of your assets and the guardianship of your dependents may be left up to the courts to decide, should your documents fail to address all relevant issues or contain inaccuracies.

For true peace of mind and a legally enforceable estate plan that is tailored to your unique needs and goals, please contact the Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A. today.