Person Printing a DIY Will Off of the InternetYou know it’s important to have a Will and possibly other Estate Planning documents as well, but when you look around to learn more about the process, you discover that it costs money to work with a lawyer to write a Will and execute a Trust. You also discover that there are online options that cost a lot less. We understand that it’s very tempting to choose the path that will cost you less out of pocket now, but we urge you to find out what the real cost of a do-it-yourself Estate Plan could be.

When a Simple Will Might Be Enough

Before we get into the risks of online Estate Plans, we will say that a simple Last Will and Testament form that you can download from the internet might be all some people need. If you don’t have much in the way of assets and you just want to make sure that a few sentimental possessions go to particular people, a simple Will might be sufficient. Because life insurance payouts, transfer-on-death deeds, and payable-on-death accounts will go to the named beneficiaries automatically, these do not have to be included in a Will anyway. If you want to learn more about a DIY Will, plan to attend one of our free information sessions in your area.

What You Risk When You Choose a Complete DIY Plan

If you do not fall into the simple Will category—and many people don’t—you could risk a lot by opting for a DIY Estate Plan. Some important considerations that Google might not warn you about include the following:

  • Wills do more than just name heirs. What a simple Will form allows you to do might not meet the needs of your family. With a customized Will, you can name guardians for your minor children, provide instructions for your funeral, explain why you are purposely excluding a certain family member, and much more.
  • There are state-specific inheritance laws that must be followed. How can you be sure that the form you downloaded will be recognized in Texas or Arkansas? Does it allow you to account for inheritance laws and tax requirements in your state? Only a legal professional licensed to practice in your state can make sure you are in compliance with state law and that you are taking advantage of state-specific opportunities to protect your assets.
  • Your situation is unique. It might sound like a cliché to say that every family is unique, but it’s absolutely true that no one else has the exact same assets, property, heirs, and dishonest brother-in-law that you do. Only a custom-tailored plan can account for all of that and ensure that your wishes are honored.
  • An Estate Plan is more than just a Will. Many do-it-yourselfers think they only need a Will, and their Estate Plan is done. They have probably watched too many old movies. A comprehensive Estate Plan includes a Will, Powers of Attorney for finances and health care, and possibly a revocable living Trust, among other essential documents. A lawyer who knows your situation can make sure your Estate Plan is complete.
  • Things change. You printed out a Will and signed it years ago. Since then, your children have grown up, you got divorced, you sold the car you mentioned in the Will, and your retirement account doubled in value. However, you didn’t think about updating your Will in all that time. When you work with an Estate Planning lawyer, they will help you keep track of major life changes and update your Estate Plan accordingly.

The best thing about entrusting a lawyer with your Estate Plan rather than doing it yourself is that you can be confident that someone else is looking out for you, freeing you up to focus on the now rather than what could happen in the future.

An Estate Planning Lawyer Might Be More Affordable Than You Thought

With smart Estate Planning, you can save your estate and your heirs a lot of money in the long run. A comprehensive plan can avoid Probate for multiple assets, prevent Will contests and litigation during Probate, and lessen potential tax burdens—all of which increase the value of your Estate for your heirs. Making an investment in the process now could mean protecting your family from a difficult Probate process and ensuring that they inherit everything you hope to be able to leave them.

Kline Pillow
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Kline Pillow helps clients in TX and AR planning for the aging process with a specialty in Guardianship cases.
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