These days, it can be hard to count anything as certain and yet one truth that remains unchanged is that lawyers want people to use lawyers. As a lawyer, I can confirm this. And yet, that is not why I am writing. After all, DIY wills are, ironically, great for business in that they often create more work than would drafting an original will in the first place. That’s great for me but bad for you.
The hidden costs of DIY estate management
Online, form-filled legal documents claim to save you money. Upfront, they do but rarely does the gambit pay off. Why? Because probate court is never cheap and cheaply drafted estate plans end up in probate. This is true of even those straight-forward cases for which template websites appear to be designed. After all, a mistake as simple as failing to adhere to strict witnessing rules can invalidate your hard work.
Ok, but what if I don’t make silly mistakes?
I know, I hear you. As a lawyer, I, too, like to think my perfectionist tendencies protect me from easily-avoidable slipups. Most often, they do but only because I am certain my forms are up-to-date. If you, likewise, make a living off of staying attuned to yearly tweaks made to state laws governing probate, estates, trusts, advance directives, and other important documents, then I say no more. You’ve got this. (Though, I’ll admit I don’t understand why you’d be here if that were the case).
If, on the other hand, you are not an estate attorney, yourself, then please know that online services struggle to keep up with ever-changing laws. Should you draft a will with an outdated form, it won’t stand up in court. Naturally, such outcomes are costly.
There is no substitute for professional advice.
The day that automated platforms figure out how to give catered advice on designating beneficiaries, structuring your assets, and minimizing taxes, will be a bright one. Not because I’ll go out of business, but because I’m pretty sure so many technological advances will pre-date this innovation that we’ll all be living lives rosier than Rosy from the Jetsons. Until then, count on an attorney to fill you in on how, for instance, the SECURE Act impacts your retirement and how simple deed work can ensure your mother’s modest home stays in the family.
Isn’t a DIY will better than nothing, though?
At a time when many folks feel unsafe venturing outside their homes and many more are worried about the danger of Covid-19, it makes sense that a DIY will would provide peace of mind. After all, thinking that you have your affairs in order dulls some of the anxiety provoked by the unknown.
Those attorneys invested in estate management—and not just looking to capitalize on the moment—know this and have worked tirelessly to ensure their services remain available. Estate planners and elder law attorneys are open as an essential service and many offer no-contact, drive-up signings, among other creative, safe methods for ensuring your well-being takes first priority.
An article as simple as this one cannot answer all of your questions any more than a DIY webpage can offer personalized, reliable service. If you’d like to hear more, give us call! We’re happy to chat and promise our most sincere advice on any worry you might have.