Forbes addressed this matter last month in an article titled “What Could Happen If You Write Your Own Living Trust?” As the title suggests, estate planning is not a “Do-it-Yourself” project to take lightly. The article recounts several “horror” stories of homemade estate planning gone awry. If this is something you’re considering, read their article first.
Of course, sounding the alarm about do-it-yourself planning sounds a little self-serving coming from an estate planning attorney—I get that. But even the venerable Consumer Reports has less-than-flattering things to say about this strategy. At the end of the day, your estate plan is not your deck. No, your estate plan is the legally binding roadmap to protect everyone you love and everything you have when you cannot. And, by the time anyone realizes there’s a problem, in all likelihood you’ll be deceased and it will be too late to fix it.
If you botch the deck project, there usually is a fix. In a worst case scenario, you re-sand and re-stain (perhaps with a darker stain). If you botch your estate plan, on the other hand, your minor children may not be reared by the guardians (backup parents) of your choosing, may squander or lose their inheritance, and your spouse’s next spouse may take it all anyway. The list goes on and on.
With many of life’s DIY projects, life will go on for your loved ones regardless. When it comes to your estate plan, however, is it really worth the risk?