We Americans like doing things ourselves, and this DIY or “Do It Yourself” impulse can extend to estate planning. Various online websites offer these DIY legal documents. However, as the old saying goes, you typically “get what you pay for.” Drafting your own estate plan can backfire. You may never know it, but your family may spend unnecessary time and money sorting out your affairs if something is not done correctly. Before trusting your assets and end-of-life care to a fill-in-the-blank form, considering the following:
Proper Estate Planning is Much More Than Filling Out a Form
An effective “estate plan” involves an actual plan which takes into account the goals and unique circumstances of each family. A fillable form does not provide any guidance or a plan for a seamless transfer of assets to beneficiaries which can avoid court involvement. We see many issues that result from poor estate planning and do-it-yourselfers, including unintended disinheritance (yes, sadly we have seen this before because a do-it-yourselfer didn’t understand the form), probate, conservatorships for minors, all of which could have been easily avoided with proper guidance.
Simple online templates are general templates which do not consider individual situations, like your Disney memorabilia, your unique family structure, or your beloved pet. Accidental disinheritances can happen, often when individuals fail to update estate plans after a life change. You need to adapt your estate plan after a marriage, divorce, death, adoption, or other shifts. Merely telling a friend or family member your intentions won’t matter if it’s not in writing. When it comes to what you love, simple isn’t always better if it is incomplete.
Ignorance isn’t bliss.
A will may be the extent of your estate planning knowledge, but wills have potential pitfalls. For example, many people believe that if they have a will, their estate will avoid probate. However, that is not always true because it may not cover your individualized needs. Additional documents may be needed for situations such as real estate, your business, a special needs trust for caring for a disabled loved one or how to minimize taxes. Knowing which combination of documents are necessary for your specific needs is important.
The Bottom Line
You can’t explain yourself or your intentions after you are gone; your documents have to do that for you, in clear, enforceable language. Before you entrust your loved ones’ future to an online template, talk to an estate planning attorney at Perez Law Group, PLLC. We can answer your questions, provide personalized advice, and draft documents that reflect you. Call us today at (602) 730-7100 or (866) 59-PEREZ. We are accepting telephonic appointments.