Complex Estates and the Dangers of DIY Estate Planning
For more than 240 years, America has enjoyed a reputation as a nation of independent people who are willing and able to do things themselves. Bookstores and the internet are full of resources for those with a do-it-yourself attitude, as books and YouTube videos can show anyone how to do just about anything with the right tools. From auto repairs to home improvements to the basics of French cuisine, you can fairly easily find a way to get the job done.
With just a few clicks of your mouse, for example, you can find fill-in-the-blank estate planning documents such as wills and powers of attorney, making the process seem quite easy. Unfortunately, however, do-it-yourself estate planning is a dangerous proposition. In my practice as an estate planning attorney, many clients have come to me with template-based documents that they completed themselves, asking me for advice. In almost every case, I find serious mistakes or glaring omissions that could have caused problems down the road. If you are considering DIY estate planning, I encourage you to give it a second thought.
You Estate Is Probably More Complex Than You Realize
It is easy to believe that your estate is very modest one—and in comparison to some, it may even be true. However, there is a good possibility that your estate includes more assets and obligations than those that immediately come to mind. Similarly, even if what you own does not seem to be very much, depending on the nature of the asset, it may be more complicated than you realized. For example, during the course of your employment at a previous job, you may have received shares of company stock or enrolled in a retirement investment account. Assets such as these are easily overlooked by DIYers, but an attorney will know how to find them.
Of course, the complexity of your estate might also be more obvious. If you own investment real estate properties or business interests, DIY estate planning is not likely to address your specific concerns.
Boilerplate DIY estate planning documents are fairly standardized and relatively simple. You may, for example, decide to leave your entire estate to your spouse with a few simple signatures. But, what happens if you and your spouse decide to get divorced? What if you were to die before the divorce is finalized? If your estate plan does not account for such a possibility, it is essentially the same as having no plan at all.
Seemingly Minor Details Matter
Perhaps the most important reason to utilize the services of an estate planning lawyer is that he or she will help you take care of what may seem like little things but are actually very important. Even if you know exactly what you want for your estate, if your documents are not signed, witnessed, executed properly, they will not be valid or legally binding. Likewise, if your documents contain conflicting directions—a trust and a will, for example, that bequeath the same asset to two different beneficiaries—your family may be faced with delays and legal challenges after your death.
Contact Us Today
While the do-it-yourself spirit is admirable, your family’s security is too important to risk. Contact an experienced Naperville estate planning lawyer to learn more about how we can help you plan for the future. At the Gierach Law Firm, we have the knowledge and skill to assist you in providing your family with the stability and peace of mind they deserve. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation today.