Are you considering online estate planning or “digital wills” services to save money and avoid costly attorney fees? Many websites, like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, TrustandWill and FreeWill, offer DIY estate planning documents, making it seem like an easy and budget-friendly solution. After all, you’ve filed your taxes online for years, so estate planning can’t be that different, right?
However, this belief is misleading, and relying on DIY (Do It Yourself) estate planning can have serious consequences for your family.
A false sense of security: Using online document services can give you a false sense of security, leading you to believe your estate planning is complete. In reality, DIY plans may not adequately protect your loved ones, and this misconception can delay or even prevent proper estate planning.
Planning to fail: Estate planning’s primary goal is to keep your family out of court and conflicts during your incapacity or after your death. Online services focus on providing legal documents, but the true value of estate planning lies in the planning process. Proper planning requires understanding your family dynamics, assets, and potential legal issues to create a customized plan that meets your needs. DIY services often lack this critical component.
One size does not fit all: Standard DIY estate planning documents, including wills, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, trusts and guardian nominations, might not address the complexities of your family and financial situation. Your unique circumstances require a tailored approach that takes into account your assets and evolving life situations.
Now, let’s explore the first two common failures of DIY estate planning:
Thinking a will Is enough: While a will is a necessary document, it accomplishes limited objectives. A will ensures your chosen individuals manage your affairs and directs asset distribution upon your death. However, it doesn’t keep your family out of court, and it doesn’t apply if you become incapacitated. Relying solely on a will to designate legal guardians for your minor children may expose them to the risk of being placed with strangers.
Improper execution: Having well-drafted documents is not enough; you must also execute them correctly. Failure to sign or signing them improperly can render your documents useless. Certain documents, like wills, must adhere to strict legal procedures to be valid. For instance, many states require you and your witnesses to sign the will in each other’s presence. If your DIY will doesn’t include these specific requirements or if you don’t follow them, your document may become invalid.
Next week, in Part 2, we’ll explore the remaining three ways your DIY estate plan can fail and leave your family at risk.
Send your questions to [email protected] and use “Alpine Mountaineer Estate Planning Question” as the subject. We’ll answer your questions in our upcoming columns.
This article is provided by your local estate planning attorney, Corina Colan.
The Law Office of Corina I. Colan / (909) 265-3315 / [email protected] / www.colanlegal.com