The Hazards of DIY Estate Planning


Have you considered DIY estate planning? Many people may believe that it is better to have a basic estate plan than no plan at all, whether it is based on an online template or completely DIY. DIY estate plans that are drafted without the right legal advice, however, can force a wide variety of unintended consequences. Ex-spouses or estranged siblings can end up controlling what happens to your assets after you pass. If you are not careful to update certain directives, they could be in charge of your medical care when you reach an advanced age. This could be just the beginning of the problems that can arise with DIY estate planning.

There may be particularly severe pitfalls associated with estate planning if you have remarried. 

If in fact you have remarried, leaving everything to your new spouse can mean disastrous consequences for children from a prior marriage or relationship.  Do you intend to disinherit these children?  If not, then leaving all of your assets to your new spouse is probably not a wise move because the new spouse may not be under any legal obligation to ultimately pass assets to these children someday when he/she dies.  Alternatively, if you wrote a new will when you remarried, the federal estate tax rules could suddenly change, and without some detailed planning to put those assets into trust for the children, taxes may eat away the remainder. Even if a simple self-written will suffices right now, it can be important to think long term and take into account the possible unintended consequences. 

DIY estate planning can also backfire when it comes to beneficiaries. In a typical estate plan, you may designate beneficiaries for certain major assets or perhaps tangible property with deep meaning that you would like to bequeath to someone special. In addition, you may entrust a person or several people to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. You might name your spouse, or if you are single, a sibling or adult child. What happens if you go through a divorce, or the person you named passes on before you do? What if you simply drift apart from the family member or friend you would have chosen initially, and someone else becomes a better fit? When you consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to establish your estate plan, your attorney can provide useful advice and spot situations where you may need to update your estate plan in accordance with life changes.

For estate planning legal counsel you can count on, our office is here to help. Please reach out to us today to schedule an appointment.

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