The internet makes information much more accessible than ever before, and with that accessibility, many people feel more comfortable attempting to do things themselves. It is easy to search engines to find Do-It-Yourself (“DIY”) guides and instructions for just about anything. However, many projects should be left to professionals – including legal documents. In my practice, I encounter plenty of examples that make a strong case against DIY estate planning.
I met with a couple who had utilized the internet in finding free estate planning documents to use when their first child was born. After the arrival of their second child, they made an appointment to meet with me to look over the documents they had drafted, and to discuss having their estate plan professionally drafted. Upon initial review, I noted a number of clauses that I did not understand or recognize as applicable under Minnesota law. Upon further investigation, I discovered that they had actually drafted and signed documents that were written under California law, rather than Minnesota law. Needless to say, the documents did not offer them the protection that they thought it did.
I also had another couple come into my office who had used a DIY estate planning program to complete documents that were (supposedly) specific to MN law. The program purported to be up to date with 2018 Minnesota law, and to provide documents that would protect the user. However, on brief review of the documents I identified clauses and wording that was used that actually contradicted the clients’ wishes and goals. They had followed the steps of what seemed to be an easy process, but made just as easy mistakes along the way that left them with documents that did not reflect their wishes.
Most recently I was retained by a gentleman to advise regarding the estate administration of his mother who had recently passed away. She did not have an estate plan, but instead had attempted to have planning in place that would avoid probate by naming beneficiaries on accounts and having deed work in place for her real property. However, the attempts were not executed correctly, and the family is finding themselves with perhaps more complicated issues than would have been presented through a probate proceeding.
With number of free and low-cost DIY options that exist, it can be tempting to many people to try to do their estate planning themselves. I often use this parallel example – if I wanted to re-tile my bathroom floor, I could certainly look up a video or step-by-step guide as to how to do that tiling project. However, I do not have the background or full knowledge of every aspect of tiling to know what could easily cause bigger issues, or more extensive problems and damage. It is well known that improperly or poorly installed flooring can quickly go by the wayside. I frequently hire professionals to address issues and problems that I do not have the necessary expertise in to address properly and completely.
Estate planning is an investment, and that investment oftentimes prevents further issues and expenses that may arise without it. Further, the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have documents in place that will provide protection and security for you and your family is priceless. Schromen Law, LLC provides free initial consultations to discuss, in further detail, individual’s unique goals and questions regarding estate planning, and works with families to find an approach that is both affordable and manageable for their budgets.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.