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Do-It-Yourself Estate Plans – Review Them, or Replace Them?

Do-It-Yourself Estate Plans – Review Them, or Replace Them?
August 19, 2020 Shannon Dawes

Do-it-yourself estate planning kits and websites are a popular choice among those who believe they have the know-how to look after their families’ interests and only need a little help in complying with the formalities of a will or trust. These kits and websites promise fees that are lower than many attorneys’ fees and results that take moments compared to the hours or days it may take an attorney to prepare these same documents.

There are drawbacks to these approaches to estate planning. Most notably, they are unable to analyze your situation and determine the best course of action given your goals, assets, and beneficiaries. While it is preferable to have a qualified Ohio estate planning lawyer help you with determining what estate planning tools are best suited for you, your do-it-yourself efforts may not need to be discarded wholesale.

When Your Estate Plan Only Needs Reviewed

While not ideal, a do-it-yourself estate plan may be sufficient if:

  • You do not anticipate having many assets at the time of your death
  • Your estate is small enough to avoid federal estate taxes
  • The number of heirs or beneficiaries to whom you intend to give your estate is small
  • Your plans and desires for handling your estate are not complicated

In these cases, an estate planning attorney may begin by reviewing the product of your own efforts. In particular, your lawyer will want to ensure that your plan accurately and specifically identifies the individuals or entities that you want to receive assets from your estate and that no unintended consequences that could result from your estate planning choices. Failing ot name an executor or not disinheriting heirs who are otherwise lawfully entitled to a portion of your estate. If such errors or omissions are found, a simple codicil may be all that is necessary to correct the matter.

When You May Need a Rewrite of Your Estate Plan

Conversely, when you attempt to create your own estate plan and your estate is of a high value (i.e., subject to federal estate taxes), you wish to bequeath your assets to a number of individuals or entities that are not related to you by blood or marriage, or you have a number of assets scattered across many states, your do-it-yourself plan may need to be completely rewritten. This may involve drafting a new will, a new trust document, powers of attorneys, and other documents.

Each of these circumstances, and other similar ones, are governed by one or more federal or state laws. Failing ot account for them may invalidate your estate plan or result in your estate depreciating in value due to tax consequences. Unfortunately, if these mistakes are not caught and addressed during your lifetime, your heirs and intended beneficiaries will be the ones left to bear the consequences of those errors.

The Final Verdict on Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning

While people with few assets and small estates may be able to use a do-it-yourself estate planning kit to create a simple will, most individuals can benefit from having an experienced attorney review any will, trust, or power of attorney that they create. At the very least, an attorney’s review can reassure individuals that their affairs will be handled according to their wishes upon their incapacitation or death. While do-it-yourself websites and kits may be a good starting place, they are no substitute for the knowledgeable and up-to-date assistance an attorney can provide.

If you have a will, trust, or power of attorney, or if you simply have questions about how you can protect your assets and the interests of your loved ones after your passing, reach out to Dawes Legal, LLC by calling (614) 733-9999 today.