When it comes to estate planning, there’s one thing with which we should all agree: everyone needs at least a will. Your Last Will and Testament is an essential part of your legacy planning efforts, and ensures that your assets will be distributed in accordance with your specified wishes when your life inevitably comes to its end. Today, more people than ever before are turning to various types of do-it-yourself wills to avoid the time and expense of hiring an estate planning attorney. But is that actually a good idea? A review of the pros and cons of the DIY will can help us to find the answer to that question.
The Advantages of Do-It-Yourself Wills
There are some advantages to DIY wills that may make them a tempting option for your estate planning efforts. They’re easy-to-find, as they can be purchased at stationary stores and similar shops or downloaded from the internet. Other advantages include:
- DIY Wills Are Cost-Effective: This is the most obvious advantage to using a DIY document of any kind. There are many such forms available for download online, and some are even free. Of those that cost money, the expense is almost always substantially less than what you will pay to have an estate planning attorney draft the documents you need. If you have a small estate that can be dealt with using a straightforward fill-in-the-blank document package, then a DIY will can certainly meet that need at little cost to you.
- DIY Wills Are Private: Some people are uncomfortable discussing their finances and other personal affairs. For that portion of the population, the do-it-yourself will can seem like a godsend. You just download the document, insert all the relevant information, and print out your end-result. You never need to meet with an attorney, disclose any personal or financial information, or share any details about your life and plans. If your privacy is something that you value more than almost anything else, this type of approach certainly respects those concerns.
- DIY Wills Take Very Little Time to Create: When time is a concern, do-it-yourself wills can really shine. There’s no travel time involved, no waiting in the attorney’s office, and no long meeting to discuss your needs. All you need are the few seconds that it takes to download your forms, and then whatever time it takes to insert the information that the document requires for completion.
- You Can Change DIY Wills on Your Own: Experts recommend that you review your estate planning documents every few years to make sure that everything is up-to-date. That can be a time-consuming process that requires you to take time away from work, travel to the lawyer’s office, and sit through a meeting. When you create your own will, you can simply create a new one whenever new heirs are born, existing heirs die, or other changes need to be made.
The Disadvantages of Do-It-Yourself Wills
Of course, these do-it-yourself legal documents are all roses either. There are a number of disadvantages to using these simple forms, and you should be aware of their drawbacks before you decide to proceed with any DIY estate planning tool. For example,
- They May Be Cheap, But That Doesn’t Mean They’re Effective: The old axiom about getting what you pay for certainly applies where any legal documents are concerned. Thanks to the advent of the internet, there’s been a growing trend involving laypeople who choose to create their own legal documents. In theory, the idea sounds great: with all the information that the internet provides, who needs attorneys – right?
In reality, this trend toward do-it-yourself legal representation is often a boon for attorneys who end up being consulted later once clients realize that their own efforts made things worse. It should come as no surprise that many people who create their own wills end up paying an attorney to correct the document years later. Why? Because those form documents simply cannot provide the customized attention to your unique needs that you receive from a competent estate planning attorney.
- They Cannot Handle Estates with Even Minimal Complexity: If you have few assets and only one or two heirs, you might be able to get by with a DIY document. For anything more complex than that, however, you really should consult an attorney. In all likelihood, your do-it-yourself efforts won’t even save you money in the end, since you’ll eventually need a professional to ensure that your last Will and Testament accomplishes your goals.
- Any Mistakes Could Invalidate Your Will: One of the greatest benefits that any attorney can provide during the creation of your will is that you can have confidence that the will won’t be thrown out due to simple mistakes. Wills are legal documents, and that means that they need to be created the right way to ensure that they meet statutory requirements. Any defects in your will could lead to the entire document being rendered invalid.
- You’ll Miss Out on Important Estate Planning Tools: Most people who choose DIY estate planning tools fail to realize what they’re giving up. When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney, you gain access to important advice about your planning efforts – and he or she will usually recommend other planning tools that can enhance your strategy. If you choose to take a chance on a form document, you could be missing out on strategies that could dramatically improve your estate plan and overall legacy.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help!
The reality is that you’ll almost always be better served by taking advantage of the services that an experienced estate planning attorney can provide. At Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC, our will experts can work with you to ensure that you have the estate plan you need to not only handle bequests to your heirs, but achieve many other legacy goals as well. Just as important, we’ll work to give you the peace of mind you need to know that your Last Will and Testament can survive the test of time. To learn why a DIY will may not be your best estate planning option, contact us online or call us today at (989) 872-5601.