"A man* who represents himself has a fool for a client." While the origin of this proverb is uncertain (it is often ascribed to Abraham Lincoln), it begs an important question:
When do you need a professional to provide a service and when can you do-it-yourself?
Here are a few common tasks to tackle. But should you tackle them by yourself or leave them to a professional?
- Should you stain or paint your cedar deck?
- Should you mow your own lawn?
- Should you replace your own garbage disposal unit?
- Should you cut your own hair?
- Should you drill and fill your own teeth?
- Should you remove your own appendix?
- Should you represent yourself on capital murder charges?
- Should you repair the brakes on your family automobile?
- Should you prepare your own will and trust?
Which of these tasks bears potentially disastrous consequences, if you totally botch it?
For example, the difference between a "good haircut" and a "bad haircut" is about two weeks anyway.
On the other hand, if you fail to fix the brakes on the family "grocery-getter," then you could imperil the lives and limbs of those you love most.
By the way, have you ever been tempted to create your own estate plan?
In fact, The Meridian (MS) Star agrees (not that it is following my lead).
In a recent article, titled “Reasons not to write your own will,” the Star notes some common mistakes made when serving as your own estate planning attorney.
Some of these mistakes include:
State law differences. Many online wills and trusts are generic. In other words, they are not state law-specific.
By contrast, an estate planning attorney admitted to practice law in your state knows its unique laws (and the exceptions) and can make sure your will or trust is street legal.
- Super software. While off-the-shelf software ("lawyer-in-a-box") and online forms can help you draft a will, there is no guarantee the technology will ask specific, unique questions that an estate planning attorney would ask about your estate and your wishes for it.
Earlier wills. Most wills have boilerplate language that will revoke a preceding will. If you write your will totally on your own, you may not realize that you need this clause.
Assumptions. What if you will property to your child and you outlive him or her? What if you will an asset to a friend, and that asset is gone when your will is executed? Things to think about that most people writing a will have not even considered.
Vagueness. Sometimes executors are not given enough power by the language of a will and some agents are given too much authority under a power of attorney.
When it is all said and done, wills, trusts and estate plans should be created with in collaboration with an experienced estate planning attorney.
So, how do you find an "experienced" estate planning attorney?
First, ask around. Friends, family and other professional advisors are trustworthy sources.
Second, conduct an "organic" search on "Google" for "estate planning" near you (e.g., "estate planning Overland Park KS".
Third, either way, verify. Check out the education, experience, ratings and client reviews of any attorney before you contact him or her.
In fact, I use both of these services to thoroughly vett attorneys before referring members of our "client" family for legal help.
Now, after you mow the lawn this week, make "that" estate planning call a priority to get the ball rolling.
*I am sure this proverb applies equally to both genders, although Gretchen is the only one in our household permitted to use power tools. No, really.
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: The Meridian (MS) Star (June 7, 2015) “Reasons not to write your own will”