Look. I get it. We live in the age of “do-it-yourself”.
You think, “Estate planning is just filling in a boiler plate will or trust. Why pay a lawyer thousands to do that? I can find these documents at Living Social, Groupon, or Legal Zoom.” The truth is- estate planning is not that simple. Here are five reasons why do-it-yourself estate planning is a bad idea!
Number One – Mistakes:
LegalZoom, the most popular promoter of the idea that estate planning is just filling in blanks forms, admits that its own research shows “that 80% of people who fill in blank forms to create legal documents do so incorrectly.”
My legal experience confirms this. I’ve seen people name executors that couldn’t be executors. I’ve seen husbands and wives draft a will in which the other was not named executor. I’ve seen people wrongly execute wills. I’ve seen people take the advice of LegalZoom and create trusts that would ultimately cost more than paying an attorney.
But the biggest mistake I’ve seen is people thinking they don’t need a trust “because I don’t have enough money for that.” While possibly true, I find many people forget about their life insurance. When I point out that their estate is worth $500,000 – $2,000,000 in life insurance, they suddenly realize that they need a trust. The trust sounds even better when I also point out that without a trust their eighteen-year-old high school senior is going to be a millionaire.
Number Two- Procrastination:
You can find boilerplate Wills online for free. Yet, only 40% of people in the U.S. have a Will. If it’s so easy, then why hasn’t everyone drafted a Will?
Procrastination! I’m too busy; I’ll get to it tomorrow or next week or next month. Do you know how many people have told me they need to do estate planning but still haven’t? A lot!
To illustrate, I know individuals who used a work program that offered legal services to have a distant attorney draft and mail them Wills. Over a year later, they still hadn’t signed the Wills.
One of the benefits of a lawyer is the accountability to get your legal planning done. I’ll ensure that your estate plan is done correctly in eight weeks. If you haven’t done estate planning yet, what makes you think you’re going to start now?
Number Three – Amount of Time:
I estimate my staff and I spend around ten hours to do a typical estate plan. When I do something on my own that requires skill, I find I spend four to six times the time a pro would. So, are you willing to spend forty hours doing your estate plan correctly?
Number Four – Advanced Guardianship Planning:
If you have minor children, you need more than just a clause in a Will, naming long-term guardians. You need to also choose short-term guardians, exclude certain people as guardians, and a document explaining how your children should be raised. What you need is the nine documents included in Kid’s Protection Planning™.
Yet, Kid’s Protection Planning™ is only done by attorneys licensed through the Family Wealth Institute. I’m the only attorney member in southern Ohio or Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. Thus, I’m the only lawyer who can do this type of advanced guardianship planning for you.
Number Five- Reviews:
Estate plans go out of date. Your family circumstances will change, your assets change, and laws change. For example, every year I have practiced law, the government has made changes to various laws that affect estate planning.
In fact, when I reviewed my own estate plan after almost six years. (I admit it; I procrastinated; I should have done it at three years.) I was surprised at how many changes I had to make.
Therefore, we all need to review our estate plan every three years. But after you have finally overcome your procrastination and took 40-60 hours to complete an adequate estate plan, are you really going to spend hours more to research all the changes in the law since you drafted your plan? And are you going to take the additional hours to redraft or amend your estate documents to reflect the changes in your personal circumstances?
Do-it-yourself estate planning is a bad idea!
Please pass this article on to two people you know who have yet to do estate planning.
This article is a service of Tom L. Culpepper, Personal Family Lawyer®. I don’t just draft documents, I ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why I offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.