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Why DIY Estate Planning Could Cost You More than You Think

Most people have seen the enticing ads: “A FULL estate plan, just $100! Click here to draft your own Wisconsin will, no lawyer needed! Get an estate plan in just 10 minutes!” If these ads for DIY estate planning documents sound too good to be true… it’s because they are. While it may seem like the quicker and cheaper way to get an estate plan, many documents found online can have dire consequences when drafted improperly and often end up costing you more money to fix the mistakes.

Everyone’s estate planning goals are different, and online documents are often not sufficient to meet those goals while protecting all your assets. This blog post will discuss a few reasons why contacting an experienced estate planning attorney is recommend rather than drafting your own documents online.

1. Improper Preparation & Execution of Documents

There are many requirements for estate planning documents to be considered valid, but one of the most important parts is ensuring the documents are properly witnessed and notarized. The witness requirements are different depending on the state and type of document. Simply writing a will and signing it is often not sufficient. An improperly witnessed and drafted will can become void thus endangering your assets. An estate planning attorney ensures your documents are prepared and executed properly to ensure the validity of your estate plan.

2. Insufficient ‘legalese’ Language

Estate documents are filled with pages of ‘legalese’ that ensure you and your assets are protected from taxes, creditors, probate, and more. Online DIY estate planning documents do not contain comprehensive ‘legalese’ because this would be free legal advice. While it may seem like a foreign language, the legalese in estate planning documents is carefully crafted by the drafting attorney in accordance with state law. Without it, the documents do not fully protect you or your assets.

3. Protect more Than Just Assets

Estate planning is more than transferring assets upon your death. Powers of Attorney for Finances and Health Care, Special Needs Trusts, Medicaid planning, Pet Trusts, etc. can also be a part of a comprehensive estate plan. These specialized tools are a way to plan for certain circumstances that a DIY estate plan cannot achieve. An attorney can determine which estate planning documents you would need to achieve your goals and ensure all aspects of your life are protected should you become incapacitated.

4. Family Disputes

If you die without an estate plan, your estate will pass to your heirs-at-law according to the state laws of the decedent’s primary residence. No matter how close your family is, a post-death administration without an estate plan can lead to disputes over heirlooms, assets, and your estate potentially passing to unwanted heirs. A family death is already a stressful and difficult time. Having a properly drafted estate plan can ease the burden on your loved ones after your passing.

5. Updating your Estate Plan

Life changes unexpectedly, so it’s important your estate plan can change with you. It is recommended you revisit your estate plan every 3 years or so, or after any significant life event, such as marriage, divorce, children, buying a house, etc. If you need to make updates, the attorney that drafted your estate plan can often make simple changes at little to no cost. Consistently updating your estate plan ensures your assets and loved ones are fully protected. DIY estate plans, on the other hand, are often not revisable and may require you to purchase new documents.  

A proper estate plan is both an investment in your future and a gift to your loved ones. Online estate planning documents, though cheap, could lead to years of legal proceedings, fees, and hardships for your loved ones to sort through. If you are still looking for a budget-friendly estate plan, don’t DIY; call us instead for a FREE consultation regarding your wishes. The attorneys at Malm & LaFave, S.C. can work within your budget while ensuring your estate planning goals are achieved.