The Trouble With DIY Estate Plans
Sept. 14, 2021
In the information age, when the answer to many of our questions can be found with the click of a button, we tend to over-rely on our ability to go-it-alone. Thanks to sites like Pinterest, we can all get a feel for what it’s like to be a professional chef, interior designer, or master craftsman. I’ll admit, I’ve tinkered with recipes and home DIY projects with mixed results. Sometimes they turn out spectacular and other times, well, the end result leaves a lot to be desired (if I put it nicely).
However, some things are just too important or risky to attempt to DIY. Like heart surgery. Or, estate plans. The internet is a great way to get informed about complicated concepts and procedures, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to life-altering tasks, the best course of action is to seek professional advice.
In this quick post, I’d like to provide a little background on the risks associated with DIY estate plans, because a failed estate plan can have disastrous consequences for your loved ones.
It’s Entirely Too Easy to Make (Huge) Mistakes
Estate plans involve multiple, lengthy documents like advanced directives, power of attorney, wills, and trusts (just to name a few). To the untrained eye, a boilerplate copy of these documents found online might not look much different from a legitimate estate plan. The problem is that the simplest error or omission can lead to disastrous consequences - like accidentally disinheriting a loved one, entrusting your medical decisions to the wrong person, and leaving your money to the wrong people (or losing much of it in fees or taxes).
Also, like most areas of the law, estate planning is a unique process. Local, state, and federal laws play into how your estate must be handled, as well as your individual circumstances. If you have minor children, own a business, or have property in more than one state, the process only gets more complicated. It’s fine to do your own research, but you should speak with an experienced estate planning professional to ensure you are not setting yourself or your loved ones up for disaster down the road.
Planning for the Care of Your Minor Children is Complicated
That leads to me the next major issue with DIY estate plans - providing for the care of minor children. Many parents of young children overlook the importance of guardianship documents. As parents, it can be hard to think about what would happen to our children if something happened to us. Yet, it is imperative to have a plan. Without a proper estate plan and guardianship documents, surviving children of deceased parents run the risk of being taken into state custody until a guardian is appointed by the court. For most of us, this is a nightmare scenario. That’s why I help parents make a plan for their children, so they have peace of mind knowing, no matter what, their children will be cared for according to their wishes.
Drafting an Estate Plan is Time Consuming
Legal work, including estate planning, is very time-consuming. For those unfamiliar with the law, you will spend countless hours researching laws just to make sure you are executing a plan that your state will allow. And if you do not spend this time getting to know the law, you only increase your risk of making dire mistakes. I mentioned earlier that I enjoy some DIY projects myself, and I have learned that it probably takes me 5x the amount of time a professional would spend on the same task.
As a seasoned estate planning attorney, I can say I spend around 10 hours on even the most basic estate plan. For the uninitiated, that time could easily surpass 50 hours (and you still risk mistakes). Take into consideration how much your time is worth and whether you will feel confident in your final product if you undertake a DIY estate plan. With an attorney, you should be able to save time, protect your assets and loved ones, and know that your estate plan was done right.
Estate Plans Are Not a “Set it and Forget it” Situation
Finally, I tell all my clients that their estate plan should be reviewed regularly. Things change (including the law) and it’s important to make sure your estate plan is . Estate plans are not one-size-fits-all and they can easily go out of date. If your family circumstances change, because you move to a different state, sell a house, get a divorce, or have another child - each of those life changes will affect your estate plan.
I Can Help Ensure Your Estate Plan is Done Right
In a nutshell, estate planning takes the guidance and expertise of a skilled professional. Estate plans govern what will happen to us in a medical emergency, how our assets will be distributed (or protected), and what will happen to our loved ones if something happens to us. They are too important to risk mistakes.
At my firm, I’ll make sure you get it right so you can rest assured your assets and loved ones are protected. Contact my office to schedule a free strategy session, and I will help you determine the type of plan that works best for your family.
When it comes to teaching our children how to grow into successful adults, consistency is key. It can be difficult for children to adjust to constantly changing rules or goals, so it helps to set clear limits from the start. Consider making a list of family rules, chores, or any other expectations you have for your children. This can help them learn self-control, fairness, and reduce misunderstanding and arguments about your expectations.