Throughout the month of April, we are going to discuss common & foolish estate planning mistakes. Now, I know April Fools only comes once a year. But for our purposes, it is April Fool’s month! This week, we’re going to talk about DIY estate plans and why they’re not such a great idea. Now, as brilliant, as I’m sure each and every single one of you out there are, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that there are lots of resources out there for DIY’ing estate plans among other things. With much of this information widely available on the internet, there are ‘Google Scholars’ who believe they can do just about anything with a little bit of research. And although I know you’re not one of them, I’m going to share some of this information with you anyway.
You can buy software, forms from Office Depot, download a template, or you can pay for an online service such as Legal Zoom to help you DIY your estate plan. While convenient, these options may or may not actually address all of your needs. Why? Because they were created with everybody in mind. They were not created specifically for you, or with your family dynamics in mind.
So, what’s the difference between using one of the options mentioned above to DIY your estate plan and working with a professional? Well, when I talk to my clients about crafting their estate plan, I’m not just trying to address whatever issue or concern they bring to me. I am getting all up in their business. I want to fully understand their family dynamics. I want to know who’s trustworthy and who’s not. I want to know whether or not they’ve planned for long term care, what their retirement plan is, what their finances look like… Believe it or not, those are all important factors in crafting a comprehensive estate plan.
If you’ve ever explored any of the options mentioned above, you likely noticed that they have disclaimers. They tell you that you are on your own, that they are not attorneys, they are not giving legal advice, they are not law firms, and they are not a substitute for an attorney. And that’s because honestly, they can’t really account for every single person’s family dynamics. They can’t even necessarily account for all the nuances in state laws. So, the best thing to do is to actually meet with a professional who can help you craft an estate plan, not just create a random document. If you wouldn’t try to DIY a surgery, you shouldn’t DIY your estate plan.