We understand that using a DIY website to draft a will can save money and time, and in a pinch it’s better than nothing, but often they can lead to expensive and unpleasant estate planning mistakes and disastrous results!!
One of the biggest reasons you should avoid online wills is that the forms do not always say what you think they do, and the form cannot be tailored to your specific needs. In other words, unless you are an attorney and can understand what the form says, how do you know if it’s accurate? If there are mistakes, your loved ones could end up in court, spending thousands of dollars to contest the will.
Keep in mind DIY estate-planning websites are not specific to you or your unique situation. They typically offer “packages” with the same document labeled with three different names, often containing typos. Worse, the packages are often missing key estate planning documents. This is a bulk product offered to make make money on a large scale - not a local person who knows you and your situation.
Sometimes the sites claim to have attorneys on staff, but access to specific help for your personal documents is rarely available. If personal advice is offered, it will typically cost a great deal more than the “package” and is done through emails or online chats. For this to be even somewhat helpful, you will need to know the exact questions to ask.
Online DIY Wills Vs. Hiring a Professional
For some people with complicated personal and financial lives, today’s complexities may not be fully addressed with a do-it-yourself service for wills and trusts. While many of us would prefer to fill in the blanks in silence than having to talk to someone about our doubts or concerns, it’s highly advised you seek professional advice.
If you prepare your taxes yourself and they end up incorrect, you and the Internal Revenue Service may end up working things out. If you decide to do your estate planning by yourself, you may never know the consequences of your mistakes… but your loved ones will.
According to the AARP article, Haven’t Done a Will Yet? “Only 4 in 10 American adults have a will or living trust.”
Considering that these simple documents can avoid financial disasters, protect your family and loved ones, assure you can afford care if you become disabled or incapacitated, and leave behind your assets so that your loved ones can benefit from them after your death – Why do we wait?
What Good Estate Planning is About?
Our power to express our preferences is what good estate planning (or life planning) is all about. The documents which provide detailed instructions are critical to avoid probate and court involvement, reduce administrative confusion and provide clear instructions in the event of your death.
The four basic estate planning documents are a will, a trust, power of attorney for financial matters and an advance health care directive. If you plan to use any or all of them through a DIY site, expect to be offered a fill-in-the-blank approach. Keep in mind that each state has its own probate code (the body of law governing estate planning and implementation). The software package you use may have different names for the same documents I have listed above.
Some of the DIY sites provide these documents, but only if you purchase the higher-end packages. Some offer limited attorney consultation, and in many cases that means a drop-down of questions with pre-written responses, not an actual conversation with an attorney or any type of advice based on your specific situation.
Pros and Cons of DIY Estate Planning
The advantage of using a DIY service is that you will have a plan, as quickly and cheaply as possible, and that may be better than having no plan at all. This is especially true regarding getting a will, power of attorney and advance health care directive. Those handle most emergencies for people who don’t own real estate or much else.
Most presume that you already know what you want, but the reality is that many people have no idea what they want or need. Once you get into the complexities of family dynamics and perhaps trust language specific to your state and situation, DIY estate planning can cause more challenges than working with a local professional who will walk you through each step and draft your documents specific to you.
At Tacoma Elder Care, we are always working on ways to help you. If you are just beginning to think about your planning, we highly recommend attending one of our FREE workshops to learn more about how to start, and the most important documents everyone needs to have in place. Contact us today to register, or to schedule a FREE consultation.