The success of your estate planning ultimately comes down to the choices you make about how you want to handle your affairs. Unfortunately, many people can become confused by competing signals sent by online sites and other companies that promote self-created estate plans like do-it-yourself wills. It doesn’t help matters when people are exposed to an ongoing debate about DIY wills that often sounds more like a marketing pitch than a real attempt to educate. Sometimes, it’s helpful to take a step back and examine the pros and cons of the various choices available to anyone interested in estate planning. So, which option should you choose – DIY wills or an estate planning attorney?
The Benefits of The DIY Will
Let’s face it: there are benefits to both options, and it makes sense to evaluate those advantages before you decide. With a DIY will, the primary benefit is obvious. Other than the money it costs to download or buy whatever form package you use for your document, there are no additional costs. In fact, those cost savings are the main reason why so many people opt for the do-it-yourself approach. Why pay someone else to handle your Last Will and Testament when you can just fill in the blanks on some form? As a theory, that all sounds great.
There are other benefits to the DIY approach, of course. You can typically create your document in the comfort of your home. If you’re someone who hates to leave the house, that might be an attractive option. In addition, you can save yourself the time it takes to sit down and go over everything with an attorney. That can also spare you from talking about personal information that you may not be comfortable sharing with a stranger. For some people, cost savings, convenience, and privacy are too tempting to pass up.
The Benefits of Working with an Estate Planning Attorney
On the other hand, you have the option of having your will created by an experienced estate planning attorney. There are some obvious benefits to choosing this route as well. While attorney services will cost you more than a simple do-it-yourself option, the product that you receive will be a professional estate planning tool that is customized to your needs. And since the Last Will and Testament is a legal document that is designed to comport with state law, the use of an attorney to create your will is the responsible and safe thing to do.
With a professionally-created will, you can rest assured that the legal language in the document is clear and unambiguous. Your attorney will typically work with you to review your assets and beneficiaries and make certain that every bequest you make is one that can be easily understood during probate. Finally, when you have an attorney create your will, you can get the benefit of his or her advice on other types of estate planning that may benefit you and your family.
The Disadvantages: A Comparison
Of course, no solution is perfect. There are disadvantages to be found in any approach, depending on your priorities. For example, with an estate planning attorney, you will need to absorb higher costs to get your will created. For some people, those costs are a major deterrent – especially when they believe that they can get the same level of quality from a do-it-yourself option. In addition, you will need to provide that attorney with certain details about your finances and personal life that you may not want to discuss. That’s the tradeoff you make for receiving professional services.
The big question, though, is whether you actually can get the same level of quality from that DIY will. Each year, estate planning attorneys are called upon to amend or otherwise correct deficient wills that were created without professional help. That costs the will-creators money, and negates the savings they might have enjoyed by originally bypassing an attorney. Many of those wills contain confusing language, unidentifiable beneficiaries, or execution defects that would render them useless for any probate effort.
The disadvantages of the DIY will are well-known in the legal community. Estate planning is a personal matter, and every individual has unique needs that must be addressed in the Last Will. The problem is that most of those form documents lack the flexibility required to meet that challenge. They don’t always lead the testator to the right answers because they don’t ask the right questions. That results in a Last Will and Testament that leaves many of the testator’s needs unaddressed.
Which Choice is Right for You?
Even when presented with those advantages and disadvantages, some people are still going to struggle with the choice between these two options. For some, the ability to save money will lead them to take the obvious risk that a DIY will can represent. For others, the desire for sound and accurate strategic planning will lead them to choose the professional approach. When making that determination, it’s important to ask yourself a few simple questions:
- Can you afford to have your will invalidated later? How would that impact your surviving loved ones?
- How complex is your estate? If you have more than a few possessions or heirs, chances are that you should consider getting an attorney’s help.
- Do you want it done right the first time, or are you willing to come back later and pay an attorney to fix any mistakes?
Get the Help You Need
If you consider the pros and cons and determined that the professional option is the right choice for you, then you need a law firm you can rely on to guide you through the will creation process. At the Law Offices of Mary A. Miller, P.C., we’re committed to ensuring that your Last Will and Testament meets all your most pressing estate planning needs. For more information about how our professional will-creation services can help you avoid the problems so many people encounter with DIY wills, contact us online or give us a call at (914) 939-6565 today.
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