DIY in Estate Planning Is a Bad Idea

DIY in Estate Planning Is…

“Do It Yourself” (DIY) in estate planning is a bad idea. Would you perform your own root canal? No. You should not prepare your own Living Trust and Will either. You should have your estate planning documents drafted by an experienced attorney.

It may be tempting to buy an inexpensive fill-in-the blank Will kit at Staples, but just walk away. I have seen many terrible self-made Wills which could not even be admitted to probate court. It’s too easy to fill out DIY forms incorrectly. In addition, these forms are typically not state specific. One size does not fit all with estate planning; the requirements for a Will in Ohio may not be the same as the requirements for a Will in California.

The same goes for DIY Powers of Attorney. Banks and financial institutions do not like POAs; their legal departments look for any reason to reject a POA. Self-made POAs often have errors or omissions which make it easy for banks to reject them.

I also don’t recommend DIY websites like LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer. LegalZoom’s own disclaimer should serve as a giant red flag:

“LegalZoom is not a law firm, and the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney. LegalZoom's legal document service is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. LegalZoom cannot provide legal advice and can only provide self-help services at your specific direction. LegalZoom is not permitted to engage in the practice of law. LegalZoom is prohibited from providing any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.”

I do, however, agree with LegalZoom that legal forms and DIY websites are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. An attorney can prepare documents for you which fit your particular needs and effectively communicate your final wishes. It’s well worth the investment, and your loved ones will be grateful that you set up your estate plan correctly.

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