Like many people, you may see little harm in taking estate planning into your own hands. There are many services that allow you to draft your own documents, as well as manuals to guide you through the process. You may think that do-it-yourself (DIY) estate planning could help you save time and money. Yet, without the guidance of an attorney, you may end up making mistakes that could create issues in the future.
The perils of DIY estate planning
DIY estate planning may seem like a smart idea if your assets are simple and you plan on leaving them to one or two beneficiaries. Yet, this arrangement could come with pitfalls, since the composition and value of your assets will likely change over time. If you fail to account for these changes properly, some of your assets could get left out of your estate plan and disburse based on California’s succession laws. Your closest next of kin may not be your intended beneficiary, and your assets, in this case, could end up in the hands of an unintended heir.
If your circumstances are complex, DIY estate planning can be especially perilous. For instance, you may own a business, have significant investments or have a child with special needs. In these situations, among others, you may need special instruments to transfer your assets or protect their value. These instruments tend to be beyond the scope of DIY estate planning and setting them up on your own could have unintended consequences.
Furthermore, DIY estate planning could cause you to overlook important documents. For your estate plan to be comprehensive, it will need more than a will and a trust. You will need to draft durable and healthcare powers of attorney to appoint agents to handle your financial and medical affairs if you become incapacitated. And you will also need to draft a living will to outline the medical treatments you approve of to keep you alive. Many people gloss over these documents – and others – when creating their estate plan, and they end up running into trouble when their intentions are unaccounted for.
How an attorney can help with estate planning
You may be hesitant to hire a legal professional to guide you through the estate planning process, due to the costs involved. Yet, an estate planning attorney will understand all the documents you need to carry out your intentions and protect your assets. They will also be familiar with the language you must use to make these documents binding and valid. Even if you draft part of – or all – your plan on your own, an attorney can look it over and make sure you did not miss signatures or clauses that could affect its enforceability.
DIY estate planning may seem appealing due to its quickness and affordability. Yet, drafting or reviewing your plan with the help of an attorney will make sure your assets are protected and your wishes are carried out down the road.