DIY wills and estate planning proceed with caution

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I often get asked, “How much do you charge to draft a will?” The standard answer is, “It depends,” because everyone’s circumstances are different and the degree of complexity in each person’s will or estate plan must be evaluated individually. Our legal system is evolving at a rapid pace and the Internet age has brought about sweeping changes to the manner in which we do business. Simple forms can be downloaded from self-help websites and people end up drafting their own legal documents such as wills and basic estate plans. With the considerable amount of online self-help resources, many individuals move forward without the assistance of an attorney and rely solely on what they find online.

First, let me say that this reasoning is completely understandable. When funds and available free time are scarce, many people look for the most cost-effective and time-saving option. While many of us can understand this mentality, this should not be considered while drafting your will and estate plan. The reason I caution against self-help estate planning is because I am often hired by a self-help litigant when matters become too complex and he/she is in dire need of assistance. The first problem is that I must fix the errors this person made and, in some cases, completely rework all of the documents. When the testator is living one has the ability to repair errors or oversights; however, such a remedy may not exist after they are deceased. All too often families are left devastated by missteps and errors that resulted from self-help estate plans. This is your legacy we are talking about. Take the time to make sure your wishes and directives are appropriately managed for those loved ones that you want to leave that legacy. If the deceased started with a qualified and experienced attorney these errors would likely not have occurred and a smooth transition of the decedent’s estate would have been possible without the need of an expensive litigation case before the court.

I compare legal work to making home repairs. Personally, I have enough knowledge to do many home repairs myself, but I know my limitations and hire experienced professionals to complete the tasks that I do not feel comfortable attempting on my own. Letting an attorney handle your will and estate plan is much the same. Let the qualified and experienced professional guide you through this process. You must understand the difference that when making an error laying down carpet is not the same as losing a home when a loved one passes away due to an error in a do it yourself will or trust.

Just because the option of preparing your own legal documents are available, this does not mean it is a good option. Hire a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney today. For more information regarding preparing your will or drafting your estate plan please contact the law office of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates.

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