Be wary of do-it-yourself estate planning

Do-it-yourself projects are trendy. An online search will bring up video tutorials for nearly anything that comes to your mind. These videos can be useful for learning the best technique to paint a room. However, you may want to rethink rewiring your home unless you’re a certified electrician.

Just as attempting home electrical repair can be dangerous if you aren’t trained, so can attempting to take a DIY approach to estate planning. Nonetheless, “canned” forms abound on the internet. Here are some reasons why you want to leave estate planning to the professionals.

Everyone’s situation is different

Your life is going to be much different than the lives of the people across the hall. However, a pre-printed estate planning document is going to be the same for everyone. An estate plan should be as unique as you and your family. A skilled professional will tailor a plan to best suit your needs.

What appears to be a deal may prove to be expensive

People are attracted to DIY estate planning because it’s cheaper than going to an attorney. However, errors in online forms are common. In addition, each state has different rules regarding witnesses, necessary signatures, and the like. If there is a mistake on your form or it’s not valid in the eyes of the law, your family could find themselves facing extensive legal bills after you’re gone.

An estate plan should consist of more than a simple will

When most people think of estate planning, they immediately jump to deciding who gets what after they’re gone. A will is an essential component of any estate plan. However, it’s often necessary to address other considerations. Do you have a child with special needs? Have you remarried? Do you own property in another state? Do you have a plan in place should you ever become incapacitated? What about a power of attorney? A health care proxy? These are elements of estate plans and need to be discussed.

An attorney can help answer these questions and more. At the end of the day, you can rest easy knowing your estate plan will reflect your wishes.

And get independent legal advice on your estate plan, separate and apart from the plan of your spouse.  Very often, spouses just accept the advice of a lawyer hired by their spouse. Ask for a separate consultation and ask what happens in terms of assets and liabilities should you get divorced. Also insure you understand the terms of any trusts that are being created as part of an estate plan.

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