Lord Neaves

On Do-it-Yourself Estate Planning

“Ye lawyers who live
upon litigants' fees,
And who need a good many
to live at your ease,
Grave or gay, wise or witty,
whate'er your degree,
Plain stuff or Queen's Counsel,
take counsel of me.
When a festive occasion
your spirit unbends,
You should never forget the
Profession's best friends;
So we'll send round the wine
and bright bumper fill,
To the jolly testator
who makes his own will.

He premises his wish
and his purpose to save
All dispute among friends
when he's laid in the grave;
Then he straightaway proceeds
more disputes to create
Than a long summer's day
would give time to relate.
He writes and erases,
he blunders and blots,
He produces such puzzles
and Gordian knots,
That a lawyer, intending to frame the thing ill,
Couldn't match the testator
who makes his own will.”

-Lord Neaves


I’m sure you have heard this less than eloquent phrase before – “Garbage in, garbage out.” The phrase is typically used in computer programming and scientific research. Unfortunately, it also applies to the law, legal documents, and writing your own Will.

What’s Wrong With Writing Your Own Estate Plan?

Legally, you have the right to draft your own documents; however, that doesn’t mean you have the right to have them actually work. Do-it-yourselfers accidentally disinherit children, fail to protect assets from lawsuits, trigger probate, invite court interference, give assets outright to drug addicted beneficiaries, and incur huge fees to straighten out a big mess.
Creating an effective set of estate planning documents involves many moving parts and deep analysis. An estate planning attorney will consider your family situation and financial status, coupled with where you live and where you own real estate. Your goals and concerns are also carefully considered. With a myriad of variables at play, how can a book of generic forms, computer program, or website possibly address all this correctly? It simply can’t.
Even attorneys, who don’t focus on estate planning, are hesitant to write their own estate plans. Instead, they turn to their colleagues who understand probate and trust laws, and are experienced in putting together estate plans that work.

Use Books and Software to Learn About Estate Planning, Not for Estate Planning

Estate planning books and software should only be used as tools to learn about the estate planning process. They should not be used a substitute for the hands-on, legal counseling from an experienced estate planning attorney. While there are many tasks you can complete on your own, designing, drafting, and implementing an estate plan is not one of them.

What’s the Biggest Problem With Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning?

The biggest problem with do-it-yourself estate planning is that it often creates a huge burden for loved ones. It’s your loved ones who will find out you tried to save a few bucks and, as a result, caused a huge stressful mess that will cost thousands of dollars to fix.
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