Common Mistakes of DIY Estate Planning

Posted in: by Victor Kademenos

Estate planning and dealing with end-of-life scenarios is not something most people want to dwell on. It often gets pushed aside or wholly ignored. To get the job done quickly and perhaps inexpensively you may be thinking of turning to various Do It Yourself (DIY) resources found online, instead of working with an estate planning lawyer. Before you invest your time and resources, you might consider some common mistakes of DIY estate planning.

Because there are legal requirements and considerations for estate planning documents, you may decide to forego doing it yourself. The Ohio estate planning lawyers at Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA have decades of experience helping clients protect and provide for their loved ones through will preparation, probate matters, and establishing trusts.

Call us today at (419) 625-7770 to discuss your estate planning needs.

Pitfalls of DIY Estate Planning

Finding an inexpensive online will-maker or just some standard estate planning forms may seem like the perfect answer to resolve your need for end-of-life documents. But, consider some of the following drawbacks of doing so:

1. Legal sufficiency

While the resource you are using may claim that your final product will be legally sufficient and valid, you don’t have any way of verifying that claim. Should the forms be wrong, your family will not have the protection and direction that you had tried to provide. Consider that estate law often changes, so if you depend on a one-and-done online program, your documents may be invalid at the time of your death.

2. Failure to properly execute

Even if your DIY will is legally sufficient when it is drafted, you could fail to execute them properly. In Ohio, a valid will must be in writing and signed in the presence of two competent people who are not beneficiaries of your estate. In addition, you must declare in the presence of both witnesses that the document is intended to be your last will and testament. If you produce your DIY will at home, you may be tempted to just sign it and put it away or ask that it be witnessed by beneficiaries like your spouse or adult children.

3. Choosing the wrong trustee/administrator/executor

Choosing the person who will help administer your last wishes is an important decision. In a DIY situation, you may pick someone without considering the factors an experienced estate planning lawyer could explain. For example, you may think your oldest adult child is the automatic choice without considering whether that child can serve. Another DIY mistake is not to make contingency plans should your first choice of executor be unable to fulfill the role.

4. Forgetting to account for all assets

Some assets that are titled, like a car or home, can either be placed in a trust (which many DIY resources can’t help with) or can be made “transferrable on death” to avoid probate. There are other assets that have beneficiaries like life insurance that also automatically transfer. But depending on how much such assets are worth; you may have specific instructions about distribution, and there may not be any options in a DIY program. Without the advice of an estate planning lawyer, you may forget to provide instructions for some assets.

5. Not having a valid living will or healthcare power of attorney

A robust estate plan will likely include supplemental documents that can help your family deal with times of either your temporary disability or end-of-life decisions. A healthcare power of attorney allows your agent to make healthcare decisions if you cannot. A living will relates your decisions about end of life, such as not being kept alive by artificial means. These important documents have different requirements for execution to make them legally valid, and a DIY option may not inform you of the proper procedures.

Our Estate Planning Lawyers Can Help

While DIY estate planning may seem easy and inexpensive, having competent and trusted wills and probate attorneys can help you avoid the problems created by self-help wills. Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA will give you peace of mind that your affairs are in order so that your family doesn’t have any additional stress while they are grieving your loss.

Contact us today at (419) 625-7770 for a consultation about your estate planning needs.