Estate Planning – Why It’s Not DIY

If you are one of the many people who have a resolution for 2020 to finally get that estate planning started (or finished) – congratulations! Committing to that decision is a great first step. Deciding how and who you are going to use to complete that plan is the next. I’m always concerned when I hear people say things like “Oh, I can just do that online.” Or “I bought a Will with a coupon through XYZ site.” Or “My friend’s nephew’s sister in law works in a law office and she’s not an attorney but she drafted my Trust.” 

Estate Planning is NOT a DIY Project

Estate Planning is more than a set of documents or a series of forms that can be checked off to create a document. Estate Planning is the process of deciding who is going to manage your affairs, and how those affairs will be handled. This can include everything from money/accounts, real property, mineral interests, business interests, to personal items that maybe don’t have a monetary value but certainly have sentimental value and can be a source of conflict after you are gone. It can also include deciding on guardians for minors, as well as other financial and healthcare decisions prior to a death that will have an impact on your assets after death. 

Estate planning decisions are not a one size fits all approach.

These are all decisions that can certainly benefit from legal advice. Estate planning decisions are not a one size fits all approach, and the decisions you make will depend on a number of factors, including your goals. Here are a few common concerns I have seen that go into making decisions on estate planning:

  • Avoiding probate
  • Privacy and making things easier for family
  • Blended family questions
  • Keeping real property in the family
  • Distributing personal items to the right people
  • Disinheriting a child
  • Creditor concerns and asset protection
  • Planning for end of life care/costs
  • Providing for children or grandchildren at different time intervals or according to milestones

Unfortunately, I have seen too many DIY options brought to me after the fact that are either not valid, not complete, not understood by the client, or plans that don’t accomplish the client’s actual goals. I have also seen clients create a revocable trust many years ago, but never took steps to fund (transfer assets into) the trust, so a probate is still needed after death, and family members are then left frustrated at the time and expense of a probate.

When creating your estate plan, it is important to work with someone to discuss the pros and cons of different options, be able to ask questions, understand what you are signing, and what follow up steps may be needed to carry out your plans.

There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation in the general public and online about estate planning and about probate. These are some of the most important decisions you can make. I hope you take that into consideration when deciding on your next steps, and if I can help you with that process, I would love to hear from you.

Online scheduling is now an option for clients to schedule an appointment. The link to schedule that is HERE. Please note that I don’t always update it in real-time, so if you are looking for an appointment time and can’t find one, please call me or send me an email and we’ll get you on the calendar.