Why Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning is a Terrible Idea

Many people do not want to spend their money to have proper estate planning done. They think that they can just do it themselves with a website like Legal Zoom or Rocket Lawyer. This is like requiring surgery and attempting to do it yourself.  Here are the top 5 reasons why you should not have a do it yourself estate plan:Don't do it yourself

  1. Presumption of proper execution– When you go to a lawyer to have your estate planning done, they know how to properly execute a Last Will and Testament and it is presumed that they executed the document correctly.  When you execute the will yourself there is no presumption and if the Will becomes contested it needs to be proven that the Will was executed properly.  Proper publication of a Will and proper witnessing may be steps that many do-it-yourselfer will do incorrectly.
  2. Taxes– Benjamin Franklin once said “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Estate planning attorneys must be familiar with New York Estate Tax, Federal Estate Tax, Gift Taxes, and Capital Gains taxes. A person creating their own Will may miss tax savings that a lawyer may have been able to help them with.  Attempting to save a few dollars by not hiring an estate planning lawyer could in the end cost a person thousands of dollars in taxes.
  3. Drafting– An estate planning lawyer knows the right questions to ask and the correct way to draft a Last Will and Testament. Filling out questions on a website may not actually fulfill your wishes. A trust may also be needed in some cases and a website will not help you determine if it is needed.
  4. What is included in your Estate- People attempting do it yourself estate planning may not know what is included in your estate.  There are certain items that pass by operation of law and are outside of the estate and outside of the Will. Improperly including items in your will that pass outside the estate may result in a Will contest.
  5. Power of Attorney and Healthcare Proxy- Many people think that estate planning is just creating a Last Will and Testament.  Proper estate planning also involves planning for a person’s incapacity. Do-it yourselfers may not execute these documents which could cause problems in the future.

What is an adult guardianship and when is it needed?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.” Unfortunately, no one has found the cure for aging and as we get older our bodies and mind can begin to deteriorate. A guardianship is a legal proceeding commenced by a loved one, nursing home, or friend because they believe that a person can no longer take care of their personal needs or their financial affairs. The person commencing the proceeding is called the petitioner and the person who the proceeding is regarding is called the alleged incapacitated person or AIP. During this proceeding, the petitioner must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the alleged incapacitated person has functional limitation and is in fact incapacitated and in need of a guardian.

Guardianships are expensive and when contested can become very costly. A guardianship may not be necessary with proper estate planning. A person can plan for their potential incapacity and have an agent appointed for their financial affairs by executing a durable power of attorney. They can plan for their personal needs by executing a healthcare proxy designating an agent to make medical decisions in the event of their incapacity. All in all, proper estate planning is necessary and can possibly help prevent an expensive guardianship proceeding.