They say that you should not answer a question with another question. However, this is irresistible when you are talking about do-it-yourself estate planning.
Can you just plan your own estate? Technically, anyone can try to execute estate planning documents, but the real question is this: should you try to plan your own estate?
DIY Estate Planning
There are Internet marketers who sell do-it-yourself legal documents, including estate planning documents like last wills and living trusts. They contend that anyone can execute legally binding documents if they purchase certain downloads or worksheets.
Before you buy into these so-called “easy answers,” you may want to consider some facts.
First, we should highlight a study that was conducted by the highly respected magazine Consumer Reports in 2012. They were wondering if do-it-yourself estate planning is truly effective, and they decided to do some research.
Staffers from the magazine used online tools that are offered by three of the most popular purveyors of do-it-yourself legal documents. They created last wills using these electronic resources.
The magazine wanted experts to examine these documents, so they engaged three prominent legal professors. These professors examined the last wills that were created using the DIY worksheets and downloads.
In the end, the legal professors came away unimpressed. They said that unintended consequences can result if you were to use the online resources. Specifically, they said that it was possible to include conflicting clauses, and they cited other shortcomings.
After a careful review, Consumer Reports ultimately recommended against do-it-yourself estate planning. They did say that these online tools were better than nothing, and that is certainly understandable.
Consumer Reports is an objective entity, so people looking for genuine answers should certainly take these results seriously.
Choice of Documents
According to the legal professors that were retained by Consumer Reports, documents that were created using these online tools could result in unintended consequences. This is only part of the problem.
As a layperson, are you sure that you should use a last will to facilitate the transfer of your financial assets? Do you know all of the implications? Are you aware of the alternatives that exist? Do you know why you may want to choose one estate planning document rather than another? What do you know about the tax implications that go along with estate planning?
When you decide to go it alone, you may be making mistakes from the outset due to a lack of information.
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