3 Risks of Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning

Estate Plan, Living Will, and Healthcare Power of Attorney documents concepts for do-it-yourself estate planning

DIY Estate Planning

The do-it-yourself approach is wonderful for many things. But DIY estate planning poses significant risks to you, your family, and your assets. Getting help from a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer is the only way to ensure that you safeguard yourself and your family against future contingencies. In this discussion, the estate planning lawyers at Sloan Law Firm provide an overview of the risks of do-it-yourself estate planning.

Risk #1: Your estate planning documents are not valid in Kansas.

All legal documents have specific requirements that must be met for the document to be valid under Kansas law. Estate planning documents are not an exception. Each document must satisfy certain statutory requirements.

If an estate planning document like a last will and testament, durable power of attorney, or trust does not meet the necessary standards, a court may declare it invalid. In that case, your estate could end up being distributed under the Kansas laws of intestate succession, rather than in accordance with your DIY estate plan. Your intended beneficiaries may end up with nothing, or considerably less than you planned.

If you attempt to make a do-it-yourself estate plan, any mistakes, issues, or problems are not likely to be discovered until after your death or incapacity, when it’s too late to fix them. The relatively small amount of time and money you might save by the DIY approach will likely pale in comparison to the amount of time and cost your estate may incur to address the deficiencies in your document. That means your beneficiaries or heirs ultimately receive less of your legacy.

Risk #2. Your documents do not accomplish your estate planning goals.

A significant risk of DIY estate planning is ending up with documents that do not address your estate planning goals, do not accomplish what you think they do, or simply are not appropriate for your circumstances. When a lawyer helps you create an estate plan, identifying your goals is a critical part of the estate planning process. After you establish those goals, your lawyer helps you structure your estate plan to accomplish them.

Without professional assistance, you may not even realize what your estate planning goals are or should be. Examples of estate planning goals include:

  • Making sure your family receives the maximum benefit from your financial legacy
  • Planning for long-term care, including Medicaid
  • Addressing special family situations, such as financially irresponsible beneficiaries or taking care of a family member with special needs
  • Minimizing taxes for the estate and for beneficiaries, including gift tax planning
  • Ensuring a smooth transition for your business interests to family members or others
  • Maintaining the privacy of your financial information
  • Designating people you trust to make decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated temporarily or permanently
  • Minimizing the costs and time for estate administration
  • Avoiding family disagreements over your estate
  • Avoiding probate of your estate

Your estate plan should take into account all your personal and financial circumstances and goals. Getting help from an estate planning lawyer is the only way to make certain it does.

Risk #3. Your estate plan is incomplete.

Even if you identify some of your goals, you may not identify the appropriate estate planning documents that are necessary to accomplish those goals in an estate plan. Individual legal documents have specific purposes. Using estate planning documents properly requires legal guidance.

A thorough, complete estate plan addresses a wide range of future expected and unexpected contingencies. Your estate planning lawyer is trained to identify all your estate planning needs and create a plan that covers all the potential contingencies. Your lawyer tailors each document to your individual circumstances, to address your specific needs and wishes.

Online services and forms simply cannot identify all your estate planning needs by having you complete a questionnaire. Your estate planning lawyer talks with you at length about your circumstances and wishes. You provide substantial information before your lawyer identifies the appropriate structure for your estate plan. Your attorney discusses all your documents at length and explains what each one accomplishes, before you even sign the documents.

An incomplete (or inappropriate) DIY estate plan significantly raises the risk of a court deciding how to distribute your estate. Court involvement costs money and takes a lot of time. If a court decides how to distribute your estate, your intended beneficiaries could end up with much less than you expect (or possibly nothing at all), and they may receive their inheritance much later than if you got help from a lawyer in setting up your estate plan.

Talk With a Kansas Estate Planning Lawyer

Our experienced estate planning attorneys at Sloan Law Firm help clients create a sound estate plan that addresses all the client’s goals, needs, and wishes. We handle the full range of matters relating to estate planning, including preparation of wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, and other important estate plan documents. We assist clients throughout Kansas and invite you to contact us by calling (785) 357-6311 or using our online contact form.