Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning - Q&A

12/14/2011

Question:

I’ve seen internet websites and software offering do-it-yourself estate planning, is this a good option?

Answer:

The number of services offering do-it-yourself (DIY) estate planning has multiplied in recent years and these services usually cost a fraction of what attorneys charge. They argue their services are cheap and easy and better than nothing at all. These points are valid however, DIY estate planning rarely accomplishes exactly what you intend so, before you draft a DIY plan, there are things you need to consider:

  1. It's easy to make mistakes. DIY sources typically only handle simple estates, and cannot deal with common complexities in estate planning. They fail to take advantage of sophisticated strategies because they cannot account for an individual's unique circumstance. Because of this, you may unknowingly make an error that could make your documents ineffective.
  2. You're not getting legal advice. DIY sources provide forms but not legal advice. Estate planning involves a lot more than producing documents. Without legal advice, it's impossible to know the right solution for your particular situation.
  3. Estate planning laws change. Laws constantly change because of new case law and legislation. Attorneys keep up with these changes – DIY websites and makers of software may not.
  4. There are risks involved. There are some monetary savings using DIY wills and trusts but, there are major risks involved. Make sure you seek help from your financial advisor and talk with one or two estate attorneys before making any decisions.

As always, FineMark is available to answer any questions you may have on this topic or any financial topic. Call us at 239-461-5900 or visit us in the office.