Americans are by nature, get it done people. In fact, we can figure out and do almost anything. [Perhaps major surgery excepted.] But what about estate planning? Should you give that a go on your own?
A recent article on WMUR.com Money Matters, titled "The potential pitfalls of DIY estate planning," cautions taking a shot at creating your own estate plan.
The original article first notes some of the benefits to being your own "estate planning attorney," to include:
- The expense. It is less expensive, as there are no attorney's fees.
- A simple task. Plenty of online resources and books can help you through the process.
- 'Better than nothin'. Without a will the state could end up deciding who gets your assets, as well as naming a guardian to care for any minor children.
These are all sound arguments if favor of creatinig your own estate plan. However, if you look at the minuses carefully, you will find that do-it-yourself can be risky, time-consuming, and expensive.
The original article notes that an "over the counter" estate plan might not work out as intended. Some of the dangers include:
- Failing to include the appropriate language and to handle complex situations, such as children from a prior marriage, children with special needs, and appreciated property.
- Failing to implement more sophisticated and appropriate estate planning strategies.
- Including drafting errors because of a failure to understand the instructions or not inputting data correctly.
- Failing to update documents with new legislation and case law which may impact your estate.
In a worst case scenario, the estate plan you construct may not be valid or effective, which may result in unpleasant unintended consequences.
A big "con" in this equation is that your home-made estate plan may give you a handy-dandy set of forms—but no legal advice. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide you with so much more than the forms: years of practice, training, and education to apply to your specific set of circumstances.
Remember the saying, "You get what you pay for."
A cut-rate estate plan from the internet is likely the same cookie-cutter plan for everyone who logs on. There is little or no thought regarding what you want to accomplish and how you want to do it.
Consult an estate planning attorney right away, and limit the do-it-yourself chores to those that do not affect everyone you love and everything you have.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: WMUR.com Money Matters: (September 11, 2014) "The potential pitfalls of DIY estate planning"