It is quite tempting to turn to one of the easily available do-it-yourself wills to save yourself a few dollars. Sure, it seems like a great deal now, but will this kind of short-term savings really pay off in the end? For some, a DIY plan works very well, however for others, a DIY plan could potentially cause more problems than expected. Make sure you take in all the considerations:
Guaranteeing Efficiency. After drafting the documents yourself, you feel at ease that all of your issues are taken care of, but perhaps you have caused more problems than you fixed? If you are creating a DIY will, it’s essential to be informed of all the specifics before you jump in. Some mistakes can even render the entire document ineffective, for example, if you have your will notarized instead of witnessed, the entire will is ineffective. And each state has specific requirements for documents, which might make a document effective in California but ineffective in another state. Stay informed and do your research if you decide to do-it-yourself.
Contingencies. Those drafting their own documents may not consider all of the possibilities that may occur. What happens if one of the beneficiaries predeceases you? What happens in the case of a divorce? What if the item you are intending to leave to someone is no longer in your estate? Not considering some of these contingencies would have the same effect as not having an estate plan. Make sure to keep your will updated if any of these situations occur.
Estate Taxes. The estate tax situation is currently so complicated that even many attorneys don’t know how to successfully minimize estate taxes, let alone someone with no professional help. Those with a larger estate may very much benefit from the expertise of a professional in drafting an estate plan, instead of a DIY will. While a lack of estate tax considerations would not necessarily invalidate a plan, it could dramatically decrease the amount of inheritance your beneficiaries would be receiving. Imagine your beneficiaries losing out on hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars because you drafted your own documents and did not consider the estate tax issues correctly.
While the cost of an estate-planning attorney may seem great at first, it can sometimes be worth the investment. Attorneys who focus in this area of the law know the questions to ask and what to do with the answers. Though a DIY document will more than likely cover the basics, there are many considerations that professionals can help you with to ensure protection for your family. Do your research, and consider what is the best fit for you and your family.
By Shirley M. White, esq.