Can I Draft My Estate Plan Myself?Posted by William on Aug 30, 2012 in Estate Planning, News | 0 comments
There are many companies offering do it yourself estate planning services. You have probably heard the commercials on radio and television. While some may chose to go this route, there are several possible pitfalls that could arise.
When using a DIY product, you are basically checking boxes and the program is supplying the language and terms for the estate planning documents. The first area of concern arises, is the program asking the correct questions? In my practice, while discussing issues with client I can tell when they are hesitant to say something. The inflection in their voice and mannerisms show that they are not comfortable with the answer. In the situation where I am discussing the guardianship of minor child and this situation presents itself, I know to ask more questions. While checking boxes and filling in blanks, such interactions are impossible. As an attorney I know when to press for more details and I know what questions to ask. Maybe they are comfortable with an initial guardian but the alternative guardian gives them some concern. I can walk them through a discussion and issues to think about in hopes of resolving their concerns or perhaps making a different decision.
If a client is uncomfortable or unsure of some aspects of their estate plan, I can move forward on areas that are settled, to give them some protection and some piece of mind. Then they have me to remind them that there are still issues that need to be addressed. Typically, once you print your forms and execute them on a DIY basis, you are on your own. You have to make sure to change information, designations, etc. on your own – and you have to make it a priority on your own.
In my practice, I never force a client to make a decision. At any point in process, my clients are free to take time to reflect on their decisions and discuss with issues with their family and/or other professionals. The whole point of the process is to get things right – not merely to get things done. If a husband and wife need to discuss their burial plans, even if it is the night before we are set to execute the documents they are free to do so. I can always change provisions prior to execution and am more than willing to give clients more time if necessary. It is a different situation when you enter information and hit print. The software just knows you have to answer a question and cannot offer any guidance on how to resolve the issues or be a beneficial part of the discussion.
For some individuals a DIY solution makes sense. Attorneys differ on exactly on what situations it makes sense. In my experience, the more people who depend on you for support the less likely DIY is the answer. Assets are not the main focus of an estate plan, there are many things (i.e. Guardianships, advanced health care directives, burial instructions, etc.) have little to do with money or property but are just as vital. Therefore, there is no hard fast rule on who benefits the most from a DIY process – but every client benefits from consulting with an attorney trained in the area of estate planning.