In today’s economy, who doesn’t love to save when you can? We’re all guilty of wanting to cut corners on some of life’s expenses. 

However, when it comes to certain professional planning, such as creating an estate plan, you shouldn’t take that gamble because there can be many costly and unintended mistakes made. 

If you needed surgery, would you try to be your own surgeon? Would you perform your own root canal? The likely answer to both questions is “no.” 

There might be various companies that offer online do-it-yourself legal documents which allow you to click and download forms in the comfort of your own home, but just because you can do so online, doesn’t mean you should. 

Here are a few reasons to reconsider engaging in DIY estate planning:

1. Applicable law conformity:

Just because the forms that you may find on the internet claim to conform with the laws applicable to your state, that is not always the case. Each state has its own specific laws that apply to estate planning. These laws and processes vary from state to state. 

Keep in mind that it’s important not to discount a lawyer’s opinions and expertise in exchange for a quick Google search. 

Estate planning attorneys are well versed in the complexities of estate law and can guide you to choosing and drafting documents which best fits your goals and needs. 

Estate plans are not a “one size fit all.” An online generic DIY estate planning platform does not allow for you to receive the benefit of having a consultation with an attorney who will address the pros and cons of documents, the long-term affects, how the documents function in various situations, and review all the potential risks associated with your documents and specific situation. 

2. Inaccurate, incomplete, or contradictory information:

If you attempt to fill out an online questionnaire that is supposedly set to generate your DIY documents, then you could possibly select the wrong option or leave out important information that would ultimately prevent your DIY documents from accomplishing your goals. 

Similarly, if you have the option to fill in or add additional information, that information might contradict other parts of the automated DIY documents. 

Do you know which portion may prevail or if the contradicting sections will both be declared invalid? 

3. Changing life circumstances:

DIY documents don’t typically plan for the “what if” situations, especially as it pertains to your distributions to your beneficiaries. Who will receive a beneficiary’s inheritance if that individual has predeceased you. 

What if one of your beneficiaries has accumulated a lot of debt or receives government benefits? As opposed to some computer program, an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you think through and plan for potential changes with the goal of designing a plan that prevents unintended results that could frustrate or disrupt your estate planning goals.

Remember, you get what you pay for, and the ultimate cleanup of the mistakes made with DIY documents is much more costly. Sometimes its even too late to rectify the mistakes. 

Don’t fall into the trap of a DIY estate plan that might give you a false sense of security. Speak with a qualified estate planning attorney today. 

Jada L. Gaines is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center in Bluffton.