Putting your affairs in order without the help of an estate planning attorney is typically unwise. If you attempt to do so, you may inadvertently put your finances and assets at risk. The following are some of the many pitfalls associated with do-it-yourself estate planning:
Confusion Over Legal Terms
Legal language can be confusing at best for those who do not have a background in law. Therefore, the possibility of making mistakes when filling out such documents is quite high, even if the actual forms were obtained from a reliable source. Ambiguity about terms and how they are used may result in your children or heirs losing property, assets, or being responsible for exorbitant tax rates.
Although writing your own estate plan may appear to save time and money in the short-term, it may have the opposite effect later: due legal process must be followed when an estate plan is created and if any part of this process is omitted, even accidentally, complications will almost certainly arise in the future. For example, signatures from witnesses and the appropriate supportive documents are things that are sometimes overlooked when a DIY estate plan is created. These errors sometimes lead to the estate plan becoming null and void, which causes unnecessary stress, anxiety and expense for your loved ones.
Unanticipated Tax Problems
If you are like most people who own various properties or an estate, you have probably occasionally complained about high taxes. There is a significant amount of confusion surrounding tax laws, the latter of which sometimes change frequently. For this reason, creating a DIY estate plan may ultimately lead to your heirs or children having to pay taxes that may have been avoided if a knowledgeable attorney helped you create your plan.
Failure to Update Your Estate Plan
Although drafting a will may seem simple, you may inadvertently produce a document that, legally speaking, is “full of holes.” For instance, when making out a will without an expert’s guidance, you may not make provisions for unforeseen circumstances, such as the birth of new children, a divorce, or how you want your assets distributed should your children predecease you. Any unexpected complication makes it difficult to implement your document the way it was written. Failing to update your estate plan when anything in your life changes can create confusion and an entire host of problems for your heirs.
Failing to Thoroughly Fill Out Documents
Do-it-yourself estate plans often end up with blank spaces where the estate owner has not explicitly named the person he or she wants as the beneficiary. If you unknowingly leave a blank space of this kind in your documents, it is essentially an invitation to unethical individuals to fill in their names and ultimately go against your final wishes. In cases where there is confusion of this kind regarding beneficiaries, the courts may decide that your closest legal relative should inherit your assets and property, even though this may not be what you wanted.
Regulations mandate that your will must be given to a custodian to be produced at the time of your death. If you pass away while still in possession of your will, the document may be revoked, as the court takes the position that it does not exist. The original copy should have a custodian and be on file with your attorney to avoid this unpleasant scenario.
Domestic partners in long-term relationships but who are not married may have limited rights when it comes to the deceased’s property. A comprehensive, estate plan and properly executed will is vital in such circumstances, and these documents should never be left to chance, as is the case with a DIY estate plan.
We understand that a DIY will or trust is an attractive option for some folks who are looking to save a few bucks. But we can assure you that the investment you make in hiring an estate planning attorney in Palm Desert will save money, time, and heartache for your loved ones in the long run.