Whenever someone famous dies without a will, people talk about getting their will done and which type of service to use. Currently, Americans have many choices, which include; website services; legal subscription services; purchasing software; purchasing hard copies at a bookstore or ordering online.
My advice however, is rather than Doing It Yourself (DIY) work with an estate planning attorney to get your estate plan in place.
Everyone needs an estate plan and it’s something everyone should do. The majority of Americans however, have no estate plan in place. They look upon estate planning as something they’d rather not do. I’ve read one survey from AARP that most people would rather have root canal than do estate planning. Individuals and couples who hire an attorney to help them with their estate plan, get an estate plan. Most “Do It Yourselfers” don’t. Those individuals who do manage to draft their own documents, have the potential to create unforeseen consequences coupled with costs. Below is a handful or reasons why an estate planning attorney makes all the difference.
In a few instances, Do It Yourself (DIY) estate planning may be an acceptable solution. Based upon my experiences however, DIY products . A majority of times the result of purchasing software or forms or a subscription results in an incomplete unfinished estate plan that is of no use. I often hear, “I’m gonna get to it.”, but it never gets done. Having an attorney to help “coach” you through the process will ensure that you’ll get the job done. Often we need an accountability partner to help us achieve the most challenging tasks.
2. Being Objective
Additionally, doing your own estate plan can be difficult because it’s tough to make objective choices during an extremely subjective process. Deciding who get’s your stuff or takes care of your children, if and when you die is often very personable and emotional. It can tough to make correct legal decisions regarding your estate during this time. Attorneys provide objective legal advice as well as objective legal counsel that will guide you through the process, helping you decide what is best for you and your family.
3. The Learning Curve
An estate plan is more than just a will. A typical estate plan in Colorado contains the following documents: financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney, living will, a will (w/ testamentary trust if you have minor children), personal property memorandum, declaration of last remains, letters of last instruction, and a beneficiary deed. (if you own real property) A family might also need a special needs trust and/or a revocable living trust depending on circumstances.
Understanding and learning the purpose of each document and why it should be part of your estate plan is a daunting and boring task. Many people with the best intentions buy a book or video in the hopes the will learn the subject. I’ve discovered that once the onion layers of estate law become evident, people become discouraged and stop planning.
4. Legal Consequences
Estate planning consists of a series of legal choices; each having it’s own consequences. To understand estate planning laws takes some brain work. Even though DIY software comes with legal explanations, these don’t provide all the answers, they can be confusing, and lead to more questions. I know many people, including a few attorneys, who say they’ll research estate planning laws, but they never get around to it. The put their estate plan down, promising themselves they’ll get to it next week…or next month…or next year. (See reason number 1)
Moreover, quite often DIY wills that are drafted or signed improperly. In Colorado, a will that is properly signed and executed allows the estate to be probated informally. This saves the estate time and money. On the other hand, if it’s not properly signed and executed, additional documents have to be written and filed with the court to get the will admitted into probate. The individual’s estate would have been better off, had he or she went to an attorney, and had the will drafted and executed properly.
5. DIY Cost
Lastly, although it may appear a DIY estate plan is more cost effective, for most everyone it’s actually more expensive. Which is especially true, if it never gets done. Estate planning mistakes can be costly in both time and money. It’s better to have it done right the first time. Although software, books, and websites, seem to be a quick and easy solution, unless you know what you’re doing and invest the time into knowing what you’re doing, it’s not worth the risk, since these services won’t always take into account the nuances of your circumstances or current laws. Also, legal insurance services that charge a small monthly fee offer only a few basic estate planning documents, which can cost twice as much hiring a lawyer. Attorney’s fees for a basic estate planning package can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the complexity of your estate
The most important thing about an estate plan is having one. If you do decide to go the DIY route, set a timeline with goals for yourself. Find an attorney if you discover you’re not meeting your goals.
Contact me if you need help with your estate plan. email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: (303) 900-2529
This article is for educational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice about your case or situation. There may be exceptions to the information outlined above. Please consult an attorney if you have specific questions about your estate plan.