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Why You Should Avoid DIY Estate Planning
With so much information and tools available on the Internet, more and more people are bypassing using a lawyer in documenting their own estate plan. As a consumer, you may think this is a great idea – you get your important planning documents done at lower initial costs than of hiring an attorney after all. The reality is that this DIY approach can be a big mistake. It’s virtually impossible for an online form to fit everyone, and you may not be able customize it to fit your life and your needs. Here is why you should avoid doing it yourself when it comes to estate planning.
DIY forms are rarely customized. They are generic by nature; a one-size fits all sort of thing. The reality is that your estate is not like anyone else’s. Your beneficiaries may have different needs from each other. You may forego some significant asset protection benefits available to your beneficiaries that you won’t even know about. You could have step children to include. You may have a business or special assets to pass down that require some custom planning. Not everyone is the same, and your estate plan shouldn’t be either.
The laws are always changing. It can be difficult to stay on top of the ever-changing legal system. Even if you are lucky and find an estate plan form that seems fit for you now, it doesn’t mean that it is up-to-date and complies with your state laws. Without the help of an estate planning attorney, you may not be prepared when the laws change and end up with a document that is not valid at the time of your death.
Laws vary from state to state. Unlike federal laws, states laws greatly vary when it comes to trusts, probate and taxes. State estate laws can be so varied and specific that it would be very difficult for an online form to properly cover the different laws of every state: For state specifics, your best bet is to check with an attorney in your state.
Most online programs contain disclaimers. If you are using a guide to help you write your final wishes, the last thing you want is to read something that states the information in the book is not legal and is not a substitution for legal advice. Yet, many books, software or programs have this disclaimer hidden somewhere. They also often go on to state that you should seek the advice of an attorney for legal advice, which is exactly what you should do in the first place.
DIY kits may sometimes grant too much power to another party. The power of attorney document is one of the most misunderstood document. If not drafted carefully, it can be used in a way contrary to the grantor’s initial intent. An easy remedy for this is working with an attorney who can explain the different options are available to you.
You get what you pay for. As stated before, generic is not the way to go when it comes to estate planning. With a DIY form, you may save money in the short run over hiring an attorney, but you may end up with a document that will not accomplish your actual objectives.
There are many things that are great for DIY; for example, building a bookshelf or painting a room in your home. Estate planning is not one of them. Just like you would see a specialist for a serious ailment, serious planning for when you become incapacitated or pass away is better left to a qualified attorney who is familiar with the many issues to be addressed and can customize your estate plan to your actual needs and objectives. Do yourself a favor and skip over any DIY estate planning you may come across. Though it may seem like an easy way to save money, you and/or your heirs will likely end up regretting it later.
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