Should You DIY Your Estate Planning?

The internet is smart, but some things are best left for the experts

A simple Google search can provide answers to even the most complex questions. Homeowners across the country are learning how to fix their own dishwashers and air conditioners from YouTube, millions of people bypass accountants when filing their tax returns through TurboTax, and business owners haphazardly write up their own contracts with online templates. So, shouldn’t you be able to figure out how to pass off your assets without hiring an attorney? Not exactly.

Here is a breakdown of what you should and should not DIY when it comes to estate planning.

Advanced Health Care Directive: This is the person who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Naming your advanced healthcare directive can essentially be done through the internet without legal guidance, but you need to make sure it remains up to date as online forms do expire occasionally. – Verdict: DIY to your heart’s content.

Durable Power of Attorney: Although it is simple to execute the naming of your durable power of attorney–a person who will make financial decisions when you are unable–an expert can assist you in determining the appropriate individual to handle such responsibilities. Your closest family member is not always the best proxy for the job, and it’s important to understand all situations and responsibilities that this named individual will spring to action in. – Verdict: Possible, but not advised to DIY.

Creating a Will: When assets are few and far between, and passing on your most valuable possessions need only be distributed to one or two individuals with no legal problems, creating a simple will can be done on your own. However, as your estate becomes more complicated, dependents enter your life and assets, property, and windfalls of money make up the better portion of your net worth, having a professionally drafted will and an expert advisor can secure your fortune and the future of your closest loved ones. – Verdict: If you are going through the process of creating a will, involve a professional to make sure all loose ends are tied up.

Creating a Trust: A trust is a much more complex document that is largely intended for confidentiality, tax planning, and the proper distribution of assets to beneficiaries without the delay of probate. There are many forms of trusts, and understanding the intricacies of each one is important when drafting the document. – Verdict: DIY is highly unadvised. Having an expert who understands your needs and who can advise you and your trustees in accordance with the trust is in your own best interest.

Be warned that one mistake in your DIY’d estate plan could invalidate your wishes entirely. Although it can be done, creating your own will can leave you and your loved ones largely unprotected. Entrusting an attorney and estate planning expert to make sure your beneficiaries receive what is rightfully theirs will give you and your loved ones peace of mind that all the necessary boxes are checked. Contact Anselmo Lindberg & Associates for a full estate plan review.

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