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A Word On DYI Estate Planning Documents. Should You Write Your Own Will?

Our firm recently received an e-mail from a potential Client who wrote that she needs an updated Last Will and Testament. She was told by acquaintances that she can just buy a will template from an office supply store and asked for my opinion on whether she should save the money. NO, I wrote to her. I will NEVER EVER EVER recommend anyone to DIY estate planning documents of any kind.

I have seen terrible outcomes too many times. I have seen a mother’s Will that was supposed to leave everything to a disabled child, but the document was invalid because it was improperly executed, so greedy siblings all ended with most of what was meant to take care of a disabled son. I have seen a DIY Power of Attorney that did not give the right powers to the agent, which made it necessary to start guardianship proceedings, which cost many times what an attorney would have charged for a Power of Attorney. I have seen a Will that appointed ineligible people to serve as Personal Representatives. I have seen an executed deed that gave a man’s home away in a way that he did not want. I have seen an invalid trust. I have seen a Will that ended up in litigation. I have seen issues arise in probate because people left someone $1, instead of putting in the proper language into the Will as to their desire to disinherit someone. I have seen a Client lose $10,000 because a Will was improperly executed.

It is natural to desire to save money. We all want to know that we got a good deal on something, whether for a car, a new outfit, internet service or estate planning documents, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Besides costly mistakes in drafting and execution, no matter how good, a template will not ask you correct follow-up questions, get to know your family dynamics, or suggest alternatives for how to accomplish your goals.

Attorneys are trained to expect the unexpected and foresee the unforeseeable. If I had a dollar for every time a Client told me “I didn’t think of that!”… I would have a lot of dollars.

If you consider that to produce a “simple” will an Attorney will likely spend over 3 hours on Client meetings, follow up conversations, drafting and execution, it becomes evident that estate planning (unless dealing with extremely wealthy Clients) is not a big money maker. Most Attorneys invest our hearts and minds into doing what is best for our Clients and want to produce the best possible outcome, so invest in peace of mind for yourself and protection for your family.