People often think they’re simple folks with simple lives.
They try to do things on their own. It’s only later—after they’ve passed away— that a mistake is discovered, and there are unintended results.
Remember, you can’t come back to sign a new will.
The South Bend (IN) Tribune explains in its recent article, “You can do your own estate plan, but should you?” how one attorney was sorting out the $12 million estate of a man who thought his situation was straightforward enough to use do-it-yourself software. However, his errors resulted in a situation where his executors didn’t have sufficient money to pay the estate’s taxes. That’s led to conflicts among the heirs, delays and legal fees.
A 2016 Gallup Poll survey found that only 44% of Americans have a will. That means most people don’t have a plan to guide their families or instruct who will take care of their minor children.
You should ask an estate planning attorney for a basic will, powers of attorney for financial decisions and other matters, a living will and a healthcare directive.
You might also need a living trust, which is an alternative to wills designed to avoid probate.
One of the most valuable services an estate planning attorney can provide, is the time to discuss your situation with a legal expert who has worked on many estate plans—and who knows all of the pitfalls.
If you use an online form, you don’t get this personalized consultation and the ability to ask your attorney to walk you through the steps so you understand the process. That conversation provides a level of comfort regarding how this would play out for you and for your family.
Even those advocating self-help options admit that some situations aren’t appropriate for DIY.
This includes those with multimillion-dollar estates, disabled children who require special needs trusts, blended families (especially where there may be conflict between the children and the new spouse), property in foreign countries and complex family businesses.
The best things you can do is not make people guess what you intended.
Reference: South Bend (IN) Tribune (February 6, 2018) “You can do your own estate plan, but should you?”