In a world where you can learn how to do almost anything via YouTube, HGTV and DIY shows, many people have developed a do-it-yourself attitude. If you have any doubt, a Google search of “How to Install Wood Flooring” comes up with 188,000,000 results. With the advent of social media, Google, and online teaching platforms, we feel empowered to do things ourselves and we don’t always need or want to call a professional. Most of the time, we can do it ourselves and we find great personal satisfaction from the DIY approach. Why do we so often choose to do things ourselves instead of hiring someone to complete projects, or paying for already completed works? Often, the answer is because we are motivated to keep the cost of projects minimal. Sometimes this is a really good thing! But the question we should be asking ourselves is not can we DIY something, but should we?
I’ve met several people who have decided to take on their estate planning with the motivation of saving a few hundred dollars. They’ve purchased the do-it-yourself estate planning kits from various places and skipped consulting with an attorney. But I’ve seen this same scenario end poorly time and time again. Why?
When people undertake their own estate planning, sometimes they misapply the law, they might purchase the wrong documents, or (as I’ve seen most often) they prepare them incorrectly, which risks that their estate may not be distributed according to their wishes.
In Texas, for example, we have very specific requirements for Wills. If a Will does not comply with the requirements that Texas has, it can be deemed invalid, meaning that your estate would be treated as if you had no Will at all. This is surely not a result we want!
Additionally, the do-it-yourself estate planning documents have a one-size-fits-all character and do not take into account your individual unique circumstances and may consequently ignore some of your estate planning needs.
A capable estate planning attorney won’t just prepare your documents, but will also help explain those documents to you and can be a trusted advisor who helps advise you on the best ways to protect your family, preserve your legacy, and distribute your assets in a manner that you choose.
Will it cost more than a do-it-yourself plan? Maybe. But the consequence of an improperly drafted estate plan is a significantly higher cost in the long run. Is saving a few hundred dollars worth losing the peace of mind knowing that your estate plan is done correctly?