A DIY attitude can get you a lot of places, after all, its part and parcel to the entrepreneurial spirit. Sometimes, however, the savings can be very costly. Restoring your cedar deck is one thing, but protecting everyone you love and everything you have is another.
Gretchen is frugal and industrious. Originally a St. Louis county girl from Kirkwood, she is of good Austrian-German stock. Around our home, it is common knowledge that she is the only adult allowed to operate power tools. [Confession: Yours truly is permitted to wield a manual screwdriver and, with supervision, a hammer. True story: About 15 years ago, my father bought Gretchen a five-drawer rolling tool chest.] Gretchen replaces garbage disposals, repairs garage door openers, understands electrical wiring, etc.
In short, Gretchen could survive with her manual skills, as well as with her intellect.
This summer, I took a few bids to recondition our cedar deck. Not so fast, Buster! Gretchen did her internet research, interrogated the lads down at Sherwin-Williams and decided to go DIY. Yep, my wife/best friend/CPA/COO of the law practice doubled down on our cedar deck (in 101 degree heat). She powerwashed the wood bare, sanded it smooth and then sealed it like a pro.
Gretchen's DIY pluck saved us thousands.However, if she totally botched the project, then our family and the rest of our assets would have been okay.
Now, anyone who's jury-rigged a project also knows that a DIY attitude doesn't always translate into a successful end result. In the end, you either learn from your mistakes for the next project or else hire a professional to do it right the first time. What about your Last Will and Testament? What are the dangers of a "DIY Last Will"?
Forbes recently ran an article on the possible pitfalls of a DIY Last Will and the reasons to consider a professional. It can't be denied that it is easier now than ever before to prepare your own Last Will and other estate planning documents.
Welcome to the computer age.
However, unlike other projects where you can learn a lesson for next time or, conversely, learn to hire the pro if things don't turn out right, you won't have a chance to "fix" your Last Will if it proves unsatisfactory. Who will your loved ones "contact" should everything go down the proverbial tubes. Note: Professionals carry malpractice insurance to protect their clients. To forgive is human, to make restitution to your clients is divine.
By the time your Last Will becomes truly important you're no longer around to tweak, to re-align, or to call in the experts. For one thing, the assumptions you might have today (e.g., that a younger relative or child will outlive you, that an asset you own today will still be around tomorrow, and that all the details will fall into neatly into place, etc.) could end up falling short, as would your plans.
Likewise, you might be fully confident regarding the meaning and intent of your "language," but others may interpret a different meaning or even argue that you didn't specify well enough (i.e., "legalese" can be a difficult thing to DIY). Words do have meaning, after all.
In the end, having a professional around to defend your choices and your intent in the face of unforeseen changes can help ensure that even the "improvised" bits of your estate plan will work out in the end.
Indeed, there are a lot of reasons to consider consulting a professional when it comes to your Last Will (or for any legal matter), as the Forbes article explores in greater depth.
Here in our estate planning law practice, we call it peace of mind.
Reference: Forbes (November 18, 2011) "5 Reasons to Get Professional Help Writing Your Will"