“Poorly drafted estate planning documents can cause more harm than doing nothing at all.”
With the emergence of internet-based tools like, LegalZoom, more and more people are opting to draft their own legal documents rather than seeking assistance from an experienced estate planning attorney. However, sadly, there are great risks and potentially large costs associated with drafting your own documents.
BEWARE! Here are a couple of things you need to know if you think you want to draft your own estate plan:
(1) Errors – Estate planning documents drafted by a non-attorney tend to be riddled with errors, which can cause a plan to ultimately be litigated by family members in Court. Additionally, correcting such errors can be confusing, and it might even require you to draft a whole new estate plan.
(2) Complex Issues – It is important to realize that estate planning is a complex area of law – especially if your estate involves estate tax issues – that is based on statutes that are different from state-to-state and change from year-to-year. Therefore, it is important to seek the assistance from an attorney who can let you know the current legal and tax implications for your plan.
(3) Confusing Terms & Procedures – In estate planning, there are legal terms and procedures that can be confusing to anyone who is not an experienced attorney. For example, the term “durable power of attorney” is essential one type of a power of attorney, where a person is appointed to act as your agent and oversee your financial matters, even if you are incapacitated. Is this really what you want, or would you prefer a springing power of attorney? It is important to know the difference. Also, your document might be found null and void if you do not follow proper procedures, such as ensuring certain documents are notarized or witnessed.
(4) Vague Language – Vague language in an estate plan can result in that document being heavily litigated in Court down the road. An experienced attorney can help you draft your plan in a manner that allows you to avoid hazards that you would never have predicted. We know what questions to ask, and what language to include in your document, no matter how seemingly attenuated, in order to avoid any future pitfalls.
(5) Major Life Change – Major life changes such as moving to another state, divorce, marriage, or death, can likely impact the disposition of your estate plan. An estate plan is a fluid document that may change throughout your life. Therefore, it is important to work with an attorney to make sure these changes are done in a proper manner, and that your estate plan accurately reflects your current estate planning objectives.
(6) Legal Advisor – Estate planning attorneys generally create life-long relations with their clients, and they have experience counseling clients regarding some of the most intimate decisions they will make in their lives. For example, an estate planning attorney will help you determine who would be a proper Guardian for your children, and they will explain how a Guardian and Personal Representative or Trustee will work together to make sure your children are taken care of if something happens to you. You cannot get this type of support from a fill-in-the-blank document.