In the past 2+ years of pandemic living, many of us got used to doing tasks for ourselves that we never would have considered before. Whether it was homeschooling your children, becoming a seasoned pro at baking sourdough, or giving your dog a haircut, closed businesses and difficult scheduling necessitated some new do-it-yourself hacks. For this reason and many others, it might be tempting to give DIY estate planning a try. Before doing so, though, here are some things to consider.
State Laws Can Vary
A holographic will, or a will written and signed in the handwriting of the person making the will, sounds easy enough. Whether it’s on the back of a napkin or a yellowed piece of notebook paper, holographic wills may not be valid, depending on your state. Some states allow them as long as they’re signed in the presence of witnesses, and other states allow them only for members of the Armed Forces. Courts in Minnesota, however, are more cautious. A holographic will may be recognized in the state of Minnesota if it was executed in another state allowing for these types of documents, but the situation will still require probate. That can translate to more time, money, and unnecessary stress that could be prevented. And in most cases, the will won’t be recognized at all.
Holographic wills aren’t the only aspect of estate planning that can vary state by state. Making sure your plans meet the requirements of your specific state will save your loved ones future headaches and hassle.
Unfortunately, many DIY websites aren’t created with specific states in mind, leading to the next downside.
One-Size Doesn’t Fit All
Another danger of a DIY will is the one-size-fits-all approach. Estate plans can be very fact-specific, but many DIY websites don’t provide space for the nuance involved in estate planning. Filling in blanks with names and dates sounds easy enough, but those plans often miss important details that should be considered.
Similarly, your circumstances may change, requiring changes and updates to your documents. This will be much easier with less room for error if you’re working with an attorney rather than attempting to make updates using a website.
Other Documents May Be Needed
Estate planning goes beyond a will. Health care directives and powers of attorney are other needed documents that often go overlooked by DIY plans. What if your loved one needs access to a bank account when you are incapacitated? Or what if you are unable to make your own health decisions while in the hospital?
In other situations, a trust might be necessary. If you have minor children or complex family dynamics, for example, you might consider a trust to ensure you have a clear plan for caring for your children if something happens to you. Working with an estate planning attorney will make sure you have a comprehensive plan that covers all your bases, with your specific needs and goals in mind.
Check Out Cautionary Tales
Just as your social media newsfeed was filled with photos of bad pandemic DIY haircuts and baking mishaps, a quick Google search will provide ample evidence of messy problems that came up because estate planning wasn’t handled well. The estate of Aretha Franklin, who died in 2018, may be one of the most famous. Multiple handwritten “wills” were found, and her family is still trying to settle her affairs years after her death.
Trust Trained Professionals
Just as you wouldn’t perform open heart surgery on yourself or try to put out your own housefire, save yourself and your loved ones potential problems in the future by contacting Schromen Law, LLC for your estate planning needs. The peace of mind you will experience will be worth every penny.