Think Twice Before Tackling Estate Planning Documents on Your Own

DIY estate planning can go wrong demonstrated with Wood letters of DIY and definition on wood background

A common question many people ask is: “Can’t I just grab a will off the internet, do a transfer-on-death deed for my land, put my kids on my bank account, and be done with my estate plan?” Yes, you can. But you should not.

It’s just not a good idea.

A Plan Needs Proper Contingencies

For the plan to work as you would want it to, it should account for plenty of complications. A good plan should protect your spouse and your children from the loss of valuable government benefits if anybody is or becomes disabled. The plan should avoid the delay and expense of probate court when possible and beneficial. The plan should protect money from children’s creditors or divorce or remarriage. It should be crafted to serve family harmony and to avoid disputes between children as joint owners. A good plan also has plenty of information to cover life’s many “what if” scenarios- scenarios I work through for all clients.

A Plan Needs Careful Execution

I’ve stopped counting how many stories from probate attorneys involve wills that were not signed properly. I know: you think signing a will is easy. Trust me: people mess up this part all of the time. And if your will is not properly signed, it might be invalid or cost your family a lot more money to prove to the court that it is, indeed, your will.

A Plan Needs to Address Incapacity- Properly

Estate Planning is more than planning for what happens to your belongings after your death. A solid estate plan also addresses what happens and, more importantly, who is in charge if you become incapacitated. Too many times I’ve worked with clients’ families after the client tried to draft his own power of attorney. Because it omitted key provisions, more money was spent later trying to protect the person who tried to cut corners by doing it himself.

A Plan Needs Ongoing Updates

Assembling the moving parts so they work smoothly is just the first step. Your estate plan needs maintenance too. Your car has a “check engine” light, but your plan does not bring that reminder automatically. Major family events like serious illness or death, marriage, birth, or financial reversals are alerts that you should tune up your plan to reflect those changes. Working with an attorney helps put someone else in your corner to nudge you to make those updates. After all, your plan shouldn’t be “one and done.”

A Plan Needs an Estate Planning Attorney

Even a relatively simple situation is made up of many moving parts. Internet documents and joint-ownership devices just won't do the job. It takes special knowledge to coordinate the various estate planning strategies available. Don’t risk a result that will cause your family problems and unnecessary expense. Call me to create a plan that harmonizes the moving parts, so the gears will work together, and you are more likely to leave the legacy you intended.

Please contact McCreary Law Office or call the Jacksonville, FL office at 904-425-9046 or the Houston, TX office at 713-568-8600.

Categories: Estate Planning