With sites like LegalZoom and LegalNature that allow users to quickly download legal documentation becoming commonplace, many individuals believe that a “Do-It-Yourself” approach is the best way to handle their estate planning. The option is generally cheaper than hiring estate planning attorneys, so what could go wrong? In truth, many different things could go awry if you attempt to tackle estate planning on your own.
1. Simple Mistakes
One of the most common problems with DIY estate planning forms is the increased likelihood that an amateur makes a mistake that an estate planning lawyer would have caught. For example, the amateur may understand that they need a Power of Attorney to handle their finances in the event that they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle them on their own. They may not know that a Power of Attorney becomes null and void if they become incapacitated–the exact situation where they become necessary. You actually need a Durable Power of Attorney to ensure that your finances are handled by someone you trust, a completely different form than the one used to designate a Power of Attorney.
Another common problem is successfully creating a trust but failing to retitle assets to fund it. A trust with no retitled assets has zero value, rendering it completely useless. Your assets will end up getting distributed as if you had not created the trust in the first place and in a manner almost certainly inconsistent with your wishes.
2. Complicated Situations
Estate law is extremely complicated, a fact the examples above provide ample illustration of. If you have a large amount of assets, a confusing family history, or some other complicating factor, DIY sites generally do not provide all of the information necessary for you. The resulting documentation is often lacking as a result. Estate planning attorneys can help you navigate these more turbulent waters more successfully than you could on your own. They can also help you limit the amount of taxes ultimately taken out of your estate.
Using a estate planning attorney in Corona also reduces the chances that your estate spends a lot of time in probate, as DIY documents are statistically more likely to be flawed and therefore more likely to be legally challenged than their professionally crafted counterparts. No one benefits from delaying the distribution of your wealth, so the increased efficiency that an experienced estate planner provides is very important.
3. Potential Conflicts
It is natural to update wills and living trusts periodically, with the latest date taking precedence over the ones that came before it. If a family member would stand to benefit more from an earlier document, however, they may challenge whether the later document truly represented your wishes. This scenario almost always degenerates into a “he-said, he-said” situation that damages relationships on all sides while proving impossible to unravel in court. Documents drafted with professional help are overseen by an impartial third party, making it far easier to resolve any disputes before they cause a schism among your loved ones.
It is generally best to hire expert estate planning attorneys to ensure that your affairs are handled according to your wishes. Between the possibility of making a silly mistake, the intricacies of estate planning law, and the possibility that your family and friends will feud over your assets, it is just safer to trust an expert to handle everything correctly.