If you have yet to create even a basic estate plan, you likely have well-meaning friends and/or family members who are urging you to do so. That pressure may cause you to consider using “Do-It-Yourself” estate planning forms in the rush to get a plan in place. The Hartford estate planning attorneys at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. explain why using DIY estate planning forms is not a good idea.
Why Are DIY Forms So Problematic?
Admittedly, it can be tempting to go the DIY route to create your estate plan given the ease with which fill-in-the-blank legal forms can be found online. It may seem as though you are saving both time and money. Moreover, you are finally getting that estate plan started that everyone has been nagging you about for so long. In reality, however, you are more likely to cost your loved ones time and money down the road. What makes using DIY documents in an estate plan even worse is the fact that the problems inherent in those documents are not likely to be discovered until you are incapacitated or gone, meaning you won’t be able to fix any of the damage. Consider some of the most common problems caused by the use of DIY estate planning documents:
- Out of date language or law. The DIY forms you encounter on the internet may have been there for years. In the interim, applicable laws may have changed, making some of the language in the form, or the entire form, effectively worthless at best and ripe for litigation at worst.
- Failed interaction between documents. Using just one DIY legal form is risky enough; however, 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. In an estate plan, however, the documents frequently do need to work together. When those forms don’t work together and intended create a domino effect that sends your entire estate into legal chaos that can take months, even years, to sort out.
- Failure to consider state specific requirements. State laws govern many estate planning issues. For this reason, estate planning forms must be state specific to ensure they will be valid. Many DIY forms, however, are generic and do not include state specific considerations.
- Improper execution. State laws often require estate planning forms to be executed using the proper legal formalities for the form to be recognized as valid. 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.
- Inability to properly consult with an attorney. You may get assurances that a DIY legal document has been reviewed or created by an attorney. You may even be told that you can ask an attorney for advice if you pay for a DIY legal form online. Sending a question to an anonymous attorney over the internet, however, is no substitute for a lengthy in-person consultation with an attorney from your state who focuses his/her practice on estate planning.
- Leaving behind an intestate estate. One of the primary reasons for creating an estate plan is to avoid the state’s intestate succession laws. Unfortunately, however, one of the most frequent problems caused by the use of DIY estate planning forms is incomplete distribution of the estate. If any assets are left out of your plan an intestate estate proceeding will have to be initiated – which is exactly what you were trying to avoid by creating a plan.
Your Loved Ones Pay the Price
For most people, one of the primary reasons to create an estate plan is to ensure that their loved ones are provided for in the event that something happens to them. If you choose to use DIY estate planning documents, however, the opposite is likely to happen. Instead of protecting your loved ones, they will end up paying the price for your use of those documents because they are likely to end up causing protracted litigation. Not only will that cost your loved ones time and money, but it could also cause a family rift that may never completely heal. The bottom line is that working with an experienced estate planning attorney when you create your estate plan is the best way to protect your estate and the people you love.
Contact Hartford Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the use of DIY forms in your estate plan, contact the experienced Hartford estate planning attorneys at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. by calling (860) 548-1000 to schedule an appointment.