You know how important it is to have an estate plan in place; however, you have yet to find the time and/or money to gets started on your plan. Like many people in the new electronic age, you wonder why you cannot simply solve your problem by using “Do-It-Yourself” documents you found on the internet. This is an increasingly common problem. To help you understand why it won’t solve your dilemma, the Vero Beach estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford warn against using DIY Wills, trust agreements, and other estate planning documents.
Why You Need at Least a Basic Estate Plan
As your family, and your estate, grows, you will likely need to create a more comprehensive estate plan; however, for now, you may be able to make due with just a basic estate plan. You do, however, need at least that basic plan. Why? A Last Will and Testament allows you to do several very important things, including:
- Make gifts – you can make specific and general bequests in your Will. A specific bequest might include leaving your baseball card collection to your nephew whereas a general bequest would be if you left your nephew half of your estate assets.
- Appoint Executor – after your death, your estate will likely need to go through the legal process known as probate. In your Will, you appoint someone as the Executor of your estate. Your Executor will oversee the probate process from start to finish.
- Nominate Guardian – if you have minor children, your only opportunity to tell a court who you would want to have legal guardianship over those children in the event one is needed is in your Will.
A trust agreement is an extremely flexible, but potentially complex, estate planning document that also allows you to achieve numerous estate planning goals, such as:
- Avoiding probate
- Protecting a minor child’s inheritance
- Planning for a child with special needs
- Planning for the possibility of your own incapacity
Why Shouldn’t I Use DIY Estate Planning Documents?
It sounds like an easy solution to your lack of an estate plan; however, using DIY legal forms of any type, but particularly for estate planning, typically does more harm than good in the long run. Just a few of the most common problems with DIY estate planning documents include:
- Failure to distribute the entire estate – one of the most common problems that arise when DIY estate planning forms are used is the failure to distribute the entire estate. One of the primary reasons for executing a Will is to avoid the state’s intestate succession laws. If any assets are left out of your Will, however, an intestate estate proceeding will have to be initiated.
- Stale language or law – Many DIY forms have been floating around the internet for years. Applicable laws may have changed in the interim, making some of the language in the form, or the entire form, stale from a legal standpoint.
- Not state specific – many of the laws that govern wills and estates are state laws. For this reason, a Last Will and Testament must be state specific to ensure it will be valid. Many DIY forms, however, are generic and do not include state-specific considerations.
- Failed interaction between documents – using one DIY legal form is dangerous enough. Trying to use several that need to interact with each other is much more likely to result in failure because you need experienced legal advice to accomplish this.
- Improper execution – for a Will to be valid, it must be executed using the proper procedures. This is when some DIY forms fail completely because they don’t even explain how the state you live in requires you to execute the document.
- No legal advice – despite assurances that some DIY legal documents come with the ability to ask an attorney for advice, there simply is no substitute for a lengthy in-person consultation with an attorney from your state who focuses his/her practice on estate planning.
Contact Vero Beach Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the use of DIY estate planning documents, or if you are ready to get started on your estate plan now, contact the experienced Vero Beach estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.