The trouble with do-it-yourself planning is that even if your situation seems simple, there are many oddball things a layman wouldn’t think of that can go wrong, especially with wills and trusts.
No one wants to pay for something he or she can do themselves. Right? Refinishing your deck may be one thing, but preparing your own estate plan may be a horse of a completely different color.
Forbes addressed this matter last month in an article titled “What Could Happen If You Write Your Own Living Trust?” As the title suggests, estate planning is not a DIY project to take lightly, and the article recounts several “horror” stories of layman-driven estate planning gone awry. I recommend reading the article, if this is a project you are considering.
Admittedly, whenever an estate planning attorney sounds the alarm against DIY estate planning, he or she runs the real risk of coming across as self-serving. I get that. Nevertheless, your estate plan is not your deck. No, your estate plan is the legally binding roadmap to protect everyone you love and everything you have when you cannot. Period.
If you botch the deck project, there usually is a fix. In a worst case scenario, you re-sand and re-stain (perhaps with a darker stain). If you botch your estate plan, on the other hand, your minor children may not be reared by the guardians (backup parents) of your choosing, may squander or lose their inheritance, and your spouse’s next spouse may take it all anyway. The list goes on.
Additionally, if you botch the estate plan, to whom will your loved ones turn for relief when you are gone? Unless you carry “errors and omissions” insurance, no one.
With many of life’s DIY projects, life will go on for your loved ones regardless. When it comes to your estate plan, however, is it really worth the risk?
Reference: Forbes (August 16, 2012) “What Could Happen If You Write Your Own Living Trust?”