A quick Google or YouTube search can net you hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of results on how to create an estate plan. It can be tempting to turn to these online resources as a way to cut corners and save some money. But trying to create your own estate plan can prove to be dangerous. Here’s why:
- Failure to adhere to state law: The estate planning process is dictated by state law. Therefore, if you fail to abide by those laws, your estate plan could be deemed invalid, meaning that your assets would then be distributed in accordance with the state’s intestate succession laws. If you’re creating your estate plan from templates you found online, you run the risk of using something that isn’t tailored to Florida’s laws. This puts you, your family, and your estate at risk of an unwanted and an unintended outcome.
- Rigid distribution systems: A lot of online estate planning resources contain boilerplate language, and they’re pretty basic in their terms. This means that you may be missing out on some asset distribution strategies that are best for your estate and your family. For example, if you’re worried about a loved one blowing through an inheritance too quickly, you should probably implement some kind of spendthrift or incentive trust. But if you utilize basic estate planning tools found online, you may miss out on these options and leave your assets in the hands of someone who has proven themselves to be financially untrustworthy.
- A blanket approach may not fit your circumstances: A lot of do-it-yourself estate planning guides approach a delicate matter with a hammer, trying to cover as much ground as possible with as few documents as possible. This puts you at risk of missing key aspects of your estate. You might overlook the documents necessary to take care of a special needs child into adulthood, or you might overlook the importance of setting up a distribution system that takes care of your children from another marriage. You don’t want this outcome.
- Giving too much control: Estate planning isn’t just about figuring out how your assets will be distributed. It’s also about ensuring that your financial and healthcare decisions are protected if you become incapacitated. However, if you improperly draft a power of attorney or use a template that is too broad, you may end up giving someone much more access and control than you ever intended. This may include full access to your finances.
- Increased risk of familial conflict: If you utilize a DIY estate plan, your family may be left with documents that lack clarity and assets that lack protection. This means that there’s a significant chance that your estate is going to have to go through the probate process, where your loved ones may end up fighting over your assets. This conflict can destroy relationships and prove more costly to your estate than you ever imagined.
These are just some of the risks associated with estate plans drafted with the help of online resources. We understand that you may want to save time and money but taking a shortcut could end up being more time-consuming and costly than you expected.
That’s why we encourage you to discuss your estate planning needs with an attorney who is well-versed in this area of the law. That way you can learn more about what the estate planning process can do for you and your family and how best to approach the process. Hopefully, you’ll be assured that proper estate planning through an experienced attorney is the best way to ensure that your estate and your loved ones are as fully protected as possible.