I often get clients for probate administration from people who have done their own estate plan by either creating their own original documents, using online templates, or will making software.
While the goal was almost certainly to avoid probate, heirs come to me because something wasn’t done correctly, the documents didn’t actually convey what they were supposed to, or the estate planning documents weren’t executed or filed correctly.
Here are 2 more reasons to not do your own estate planning.
1. The drafting of estate planning documents is a learned and specific skill. I think there are many people that believe they are intelligent enough to do their own estate planning and therefore do not need to hire a lawyer. Estate planning is not the same as an IQ test. Your ability or lack thereof to solve a Rubik’s Cube or score highly on a standardized test does not mean that you should do your own estate planning. I go to my dentist for dental work and my accountant when I have questions about finance. I don’t know who has a higher IQ and it doesn’t matter to me. I just know that each has dedicated years to professionally learning a specific set of skills. You should think of estate planning the same way and never draft your own estate plan. It is also helpful to remember that you only get one chance for your will to be valid and you won’t be alive to fix it if there are any unknown or unforeseen errors. It isn’t like painting an accent wall that can be changed later if you decide that you prefer a different color.
2. The ability to contact the attorney who drafted the estate planning documents can be very helpful. I have had probate cases involving will contests where the decedent drafted his or her own will using templates or online software. When that happens, there is usually no one that can testify or offer any assistance to corroborate what the person may have meant, which estate planning documents the person may have created or executed, or if the person even read the documents at all.
Hiring an estate planning attorney to draft your estate plan is a wise move. You should never feel that you have to hire an estate planning attorney because you aren’t smart enough to do it yourself. Remember that it is a learned and specific skill which requires years of dedication. I do not think that my clients have come to me because they aren’t smart enough to comprehend estate planning and I promise to treat you with respect and courtesy.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please feel free to call my office or submit your questions to my website.