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DIY Estate Planning vs. Professional Guidance: Everything You Need To Know

Jun 12, 2024

If you have worked hard to build your wealth during your lifetime, you likely know that having a comprehensive estate plan is the best way to protect that wealth for the benefit of both your future, and that of your family’s. However, you might be intimidated by the idea of working with an attorney, or feel that it is an unnecessary expense. 

In recent years, the concept of “do-it-yourself” estate planning has gained popularity, as more people became aware of easily accessible online kits that they could purchase and complete from the comfort of their home. While the convenience factor is certainly something to consider, is it enough to compensate for the lack of customization and skill that an experienced estate planning attorney can provide?

In this blog, we’ll dive deep into the pros and cons of each estate planning experience and empower you with the knowledge you need to make the right decision for yourself and your unique circumstances. 

Estate Planning Basics

If you’re new to the world of estate planning, that’s okay – we’ll break it down for you. It’s a collection of legal tools in place to plan and prepare for the future, as well as protect your hard-earned wealth. An effective plan typically includes:

  • A will – This is the traditional document where you list your assets (all your money, property, and belongings) and your intended heirs. It is essential to ensuring your intentions are clear and that your loved ones have a clear roadmap to fulfill your final wishes. 
  • A trust (or combination of several trusts) – Trusts are financial entities to which you transfer your assets to be managed for the benefit of your heirs. They bring several advantages, such as stronger asset protection, tax benefits, and greater flexibility. Above all, assets owned by trusts bypass the complex California probate process, thus saving a significant amount of time and money!
  • Advance directives (or living will) – These are documents in which you outline your wishes for medical care. If you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself, the healthcare professionals caring for you will reference them to discern what you would have wanted. Typically, they deal with such aspects as artificial forms of life support, end-of-life care, and other treatments. 
  • Guardianship designations – If you have minor children, this document allows you to designate the individual(s) who you wish to care for them in the event that you become incapacitated or pass away. 
  • Power of attorney – This document authorizes an individual you trust inherently (typically a close family member) to make legal, financial, and/or healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Pros Of DIY Estate Planning

The two main draws of planning your own estate are the cost and convenience. With the availability of online resources and software tools, more people have been allowed to get their affairs in order at their own pace and from the comfort of their own home. Moreover, they have been able to save money on attorney fees and other legal expenses. To some, it is simply the privacy factor that appeals to them, as they don’t feel comfortable sharing their intimate personal and financial information with another person. All in all, this has led to a rise in the DIY approach. 

Cons Of DIY Estate Planning

There are three major drawbacks to handling your own estate planning tools and documents. The first is that there is typically a lack of specificity with many of the online kits and resources. Each state has their own laws and guidelines regarding estate plans, and when documents are not legally compliant, a judge is likely not to validate them. That essentially means that, even though those documents exist, you have no estate plan in the eyes of the state.

It can’t be overstated how much of a legal mess this could create. Not only do you not get a say in what happens with your hard-earned wealth, but your family will be the ones forced to settle your estate without assistance. 

The second major drawback is that you are more likely to make costly errors preparing legal documents than an attorney (who probably has years of experience under their belt) would, which once again, could lead to messy legal complications. 

Finally, the DIY resources and kits that can be found online and elsewhere are not legally sound enough to handle complex financial circumstances, as those documents can only be drafted by an attorney. If you have a variety of types of assets, or you have a high-net-worth, they will not be adequately protected and your estate could face unintended consequences, both during your lifetime and after it. 

Pros Of Estate Planning With Professional Legal Guidance

Many of the drawbacks of DIY estate planning are the advantages of having a skilled and experienced attorney help you navigate the process, such as:

  • Having a professional with specialized knowledge in estate laws and regulations on your side, who can ensure that all of your documents are legally compliant and effective
  • Personalized advice, which will take into account your unique family dynamics, financial situation, and long-term goals
  • The ability to anticipate potential challenges and address them proactively, thereby reducing the risk of disputes and complications later
  • Assistance with complex matters such as tax planning, asset protection, and trust creation, management, and administration, and finally
  • Confidence in moving forward, and peace of mind for the future!

Cons Of Estate Planning With Professional Legal Guidance

Many people want to avoid working with an estate planning lawyer because they are worried about the cost and time commitment. It’s true that paying for an attorney is rarely cheap, but that’s because you’re not only paying for their service, but also the years of education and experience that they are bringing to your case. 

It’s also true that creating an estate plan isn’t something that can be done in a day, but speed rarely ever equates to quality. This is your entire life and future that you’re taking the time to protect, so why would you want to rush that process?

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to brass tacks, the risks of DIY estate planning are simply far too consequential. Though you may save a little money and time now, your estate is likely to suffer far more in a worst case-scenario. To make matters more devastating, you leave those you love most in a difficult legal and personal position. 

Without the proficiency of an estate planning attorney on your side, your family will be the ones who suffer most. In the days following your passing, they will be replete with grief and distracted by their mourning – not in the proper headspace to sort through complex legal challenges. 

The most effective way to safeguard your assets and ensure your legacy can seamlessly pass to the next generation is to seek the aid of a dedicated estate planning attorney.

Move Forward With Confidence! Call Karpel Law Firm Today

We do everything we can to streamline the estate planning process on your behalf – to save you time and money while ensuring your experience is a positive one. Helping you understand your options and empowering you with all of the custom legal tools you need for maximum protection is our priority! Call today to book your free initial consultation and learn more about how we can serve you.