With all of the resources available today online and elsewhere, many people are tempted to try to do their own estate planning. They may find online forms or software at the local office supply store. Alternatively, they might use one of these online services. But is this a smart and safe way to protect your family and yourself? The answer should be a resounding “no.”
In our practice, we’ve seen several glaring examples. For example, there was a woman who did a do-it-yourself Will but messed up the execution–i.e. the signing–and it resulted in her Will being thrown out in probate. Then there was the man who did a Trust but failed to include a residuary or “catch all” clause. The result was disasterous.
In many cases, what is lacking most in do-it-yourself situations may not be the documents themselves. You may end up with an acceptable Will or Trust. What is lacking is the advice which goes with the documents. An experienced estate planning lawyer can not only prepare your documents but can also give the advice needed to go with them. For example, it’s one thing to have a Trust but it is another to understand how to fund the Trust. An unfunded, empty Trust does little good and often means an unnecesaary probate will be required.
When thinking about this do-it-yourself generation, I think an analogy is helpful. With little effort on Google, you can find a Youtube video showing how to do an appendectomy. But would you do one on yourself?