Beware the Risks of DIY Estate Planning

Have you been thinking that having a do-it-yourself estate plan might be better than not having any estate plan at all? Unfortunately, this may not be the case. A DIY estate plan drafted without the right legal advice may result in a number of undesirable consequences. It can be particularly important to keep this in mind if you have been married more than once, or if you have children from a relationship outside of your current marriage. DIY estate planning can mean that your assets are not divided in the way that you intended. Let us discuss more of the risks associated with a DIY estate plan.

First of all, DIY estate plans are not updated. If you fill out an online form, call it your estate plan, and forget about it, you probably will not update it regularly. In contrast, if you have a qualified attorney draft your documents you will be more likely to return to your attorney when any changes in your life merit a review of your estate plan. When you write an estate plan and neglect to update it, your heirs might find that down the road an ex-spouse is still the one who will be the executor of your estate, or receive a share as an inheritance, if you did not properly update the documents after a separation or divorce. 

Additionally, with DIY estate planning, you may run an extra risk of your assets being divided inequitably, or unfairly. If you are married but your spouse is not the other parent of your children from a prior relationship, you might make the mistake of filling in a DIY estate plan in which you unintentionally leave everything you have to your spouse. This would mean that your children are cut out of your will. This could happen, even if all you meant was that your spouse should be able to stay in the home you currently share, but you want your children to have the equity in the home after your spouse passes away. These situations are always tricky, and if you try to DIY the mechanics, you may not get what you wanted.

You also risk running afoul of state laws when you DIY estate planning. Most states have statutes that lay out what your heirs would receive if you died without a will. Typically, your assets would be divided among a spouse and your children, if applicable. If you DIY an estate plan that contradicts this type of division in an extreme way, one of your heirs could contest the will after you pass away, leading to an ugly battle in probate court during a time of grief.

Avoid the risks of DIY estate planning and talk to our dedicated estate planning team. Please reach out to us to schedule a time to meet.