In our last post, we began a discussion about the potential problems associated with do-it-yourself estate planning. It may be tempting to save money by filling out free online forms instead of working with an attorney, but as the old saying goes, you usually get what you pay for.
DIY estate planning might save you some money right away, but the problems created by inaccurate or unclear wills and trusts may end up costing your family far more money in the future. This is in addition to any quarrels that can arise if your intentions were not made crystal clear in your estate planning documents.
Let's say that you want to leave assets to your children, but you don't want those assets distributed equally. Ideally, you will be able to discuss your decision with your children when drafting the estate plan in order to avoid confusion and hurt feelings. But even if you have that talk (and especially if you don't), your will should leave no ambiguity about the fact that inheritances will be unequal. It may also help to offer an explanation as to why you made this decision. This will make it far more difficult for anyone to contest the will in the future.
There are also many other complex circumstances that make DIY estate planning impractical. Which of the following situations apply to you?:
- You own a business and want to control how it gets passed on
- You have a blended family, including children from a previous marriage
- You have a large estate (over $1 million) and want to minimize tax liabilities for yourself and your family
- You have a special-needs child and need to provide for long-term care
Regardless of family size or personal wealth, chances are good that your situation is unique in some way. Instead of filling out generic forms and hoping for the best, please share your story and your estate planning goals with an experienced attorney.