Providing for your family’s future needs may be one of your primary motivations for investing in the estate planning process. You want to make sure that their inheritance is secure, and that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes.
You may be tempted to forego the cost of hiring an experienced estate planning lawyer, and instead go the DIY route. However, that may end up being a bad idea. Let’s discuss some of the big risks of DIY estate planning, and why it may be best to enlist professional help.
You Could Make Costly Mistakes
Many DIY estate plan templates are designed to handle simple estates. They are not designed to handle special circumstances, such as providing for children with special needs, or bequeathing property that yields capital gains. Because of these limitations, DIY sources also fail to incorporate sophisticated estate planning strategies into their overall package.
What this means for you is that you may make costly mistakes when filling out your estate planning documents. Even if you follow all of the instructions correctly (which is a big “if”), you still may miss out on the best ways to save money and maximize your wealth for your heirs. You may even accidentally include clauses that will negatively impact your loved ones after your death.
Many DIY Templates Take a “Cookie-Cutter” Approach
At first glance, creating a will by means of an online template may seem like an attractive option. The problem is, the majority of general DIY wills (and other estate planning forms) are not designed with a specific state in mind. For instance, a DIY will that can hold up in a New York court may fall apart in North Carolina. And even if it does hold up, a DIY template may not take advantage of all the nuances of North Carolina law that could benefit you and your family.
Estate Laws May Change
Wills, trusts, and other estate planning forms are not static documents that can be filled out and then forgotten. Your life may change suddenly, and cause you to reevaluate your strategy or adjust your wishes. Or probate and trust laws in your state may change, leaving your current documents outdated. In either case, you may not be able to easily adapt to those changes with a DIY service. Even though a simple codicil may be all you need to keep your will legally valid and in accord with your wishes, you may never know that without seeking the advice of an experienced attorney.
DIY Templates May Offer Too Much Freedom
Many DIY estate planning services tout their forms’ flexibility as a helpful feature. However, that same flexibility may be a double-edged sword. For example, platforms like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer allow you to put anything you want in your will’s special directives box. As a result, you could include a clause that revokes, modifies, or contradicts other provisions within your will, if you’re not careful. And believe it or not, these companies don’t have to inform you of your error, since they are not considered to be “legal advisors.”
DIY Services Leave You Facing the Complications of Estate Tax By Yourself
Estate tax laws are in a constant state of flux. It can be challenging for even the most experienced estate planning attorney to keep up with all of the new rules and regulations that come out each year; but imagine how difficult it would be for someone without that legal background!
Granted, lawyers can’t peer into the future and tell you how estate taxes will change over the next five, 10, or 20 years. Nevertheless, they often have a much better idea about what changes are in the works, and how you can protect your estate against those revisions when they do come. In contrast, by doing it all yourself you may leave yourself vulnerable to increased taxation as another new law replaces the old one.
Moreover, “cookie-cutter” DIY forms will generally not let you create tax-saving entities like trusts. They offer the same estate structure for everyone — both those with less than $100,000 of net worth, and those with more than $50 million in assets. That’s not a good plan if you want to avoid a heavy tax burden on your estate!
DIY Estate Planning Can’t Replace a Good Attorney
As mentioned previously, the companies that offer DIY legal services are not required to give you helpful advice as you go through the process on your own. However, some of these organizations may offer to refer you to an estate planning attorney if you feel that you’re in too deep, and need some professional assistance.
The problem is, the rates that these companies pay to their network attorneys for reviewing estate planning documents is usually quite low. This means that in all likelihood, one of two things will happen:
- Unless you’re fortunate enough to get a very conscientious lawyer, you’re probably not going to get a very detailed review of your will or other estate planning forms.
- The lawyer referred to you will try to pull the old “bait and switch” by selling you another service for more money.
In any event, the lawyers affiliated with the DIY company may not have the skills or experience that you need for absolute peace of mind around your estate planning strategy. There really is no substitute for a seasoned attorney that works in the estate planning field day in and day out.
Reach Out to McCollum Law for Peace of Mind in Estate Planning
Even though DIY estate planning may be a tempting option, you could end up losing thousands of dollars in the future in order to save a few dollars today. On the other hand, an experienced, understanding estate planning attorney can help you to navigate the complexities of the process without losing sight of your ultimate goal: making sure your loved ones are well cared for after your death.
If you live in Cary, NC or any of the surrounding areas, you don’t have to take on the risks of DIY estate planning. There is experienced, professional help available. Reach out to our friendly team of experts at McCollum Law today to learn more.