Each year thousands of people avoid hiring estate attorneys and create their own wills, powers of attorney and other estate planning documents with prearranged online tools and how-to manuals. This do-it-yourself strategy can really hurt you in the future, when overlooked mistakes create ambiguity that makes your final wishes after your passing impossible to implement. An estate attorney helps ensure nothing is overlooked.
Most people say that a professional estate attorney should create estate planning documents when families have complicated legal issues, such as children from different spouses or multiple properties in more than one state. Or they say an estate attorney is not needed when an individual has little to no money.
But regardless of your status in life, people often make errors they don’t understand when filling out online forms; the one-size-fits-all approach can cost these people dearly. For example, overlooking the assignment of a guardian for minor children if a parent dies unexpectedly can put a child’s welfare in danger down the road. An estate attorney would know to inquire about such matters.
Online estate planning forms can give you a false sense of security for if you forget to update your will when circumstances change, that will can be put through a lengthy and expensive process called probate. An estate attorney knows the right questions to ask and how often wills need to be reviewed in order to protect you, your family and estate.
We had a client who created estate planning documents online that she forgot to update when several of her beneficiaries died. Also, she opened bank accounts that were not included in the estate planning. Unfortunately, we have seen this scenario time and again and the client didn’t even know how these mistakes could have cost her nearly the entire estate. This is the reason hiring an estate attorney for any estate planning is so important. Without an estate attorney you can make mistakes with devastating consequences, such as inadvertently giving more power to an individual than you intended when creating powers of attorney should you become incapacitated.
If you draft your own will without witnesses to your signature (in some states) the probate court could rule that your will is invalid. If you don’t have a good grasp on the legal terms used in estate planning, all of these scenarios can wreak havoc on your personal finances in the future. An estate attorney guides you through the process and explains it to you so you can make informed choices throughout estate planning.