A lot of people are interested in do-it-yourself projects, and in some cases, you can save money and enjoy a hobby if you roll up your sleeves to get some things done on your own. However, you have to know where to draw the line when it comes to the DIY phenomenon.
Estate planning is an exercise in arranging for the transfer everything that you have earned throughout your life to the people that you love the most. It is risky business indeed to try to go it alone when you are dealing with a situation that is as important as this one.
In spite of the fact that the stakes are so high, there are websites on the Internet that sell boilerplate, template downloads and worksheets that you can use to create estate planning documents like last wills. Is it a good idea to use these tools to plan your own estate?
If we were to say that it is not the right course of action, an objective reader can say sure, you advise against DIY estate planning because you are an estate planning law firm. You would not have any business if everyone took action on their own. The truth is, we are bound by professional and personal standards, and we would never try to mislead anyone.
This being stated, if you want to know the truth about do-it-yourself estate planning, look no further than a study that was conducted by the highly respected magazine and website Consumer Reports. They had people on their staff create last wills using tools that were offered by three different popular legal document websites. The consumer advocates also engaged three highly regarded legal professors to examine these documents after they were finished.
After taking a long hard look at these last wills, the professors all came to a unanimous conclusion. They determined that there were errors that could lead to unintended negative consequences. Ultimately, Consumer Reports stated that people should steer clear of do-it-yourself estate planning notions unless the situation is extremely simple and straightforward.
Understanding Your Options
In addition to the fact that it is very sketchy to try to plan your estate using these tools that you can buy online, there is another compelling reason to work with an estate planning lawyer. If you have been going through life with the understanding that estate planning equates to the creation of a last will, you are working with very incomplete information.
The ideal vehicle of asset transfer will vary depending upon the circumstances. If you want to get your assets in the hands of your loved ones in a timely manner, you should definitely consider an alternative to a last will. When you use a will, it will be admitted to probate, and the heirs cannot receive their inheritances until the estate has been probated and closed by the court. This will typically take eight months to a year at minimum.
Expenses pile up during probate as well, and this money is essentially coming directly out of the pockets of your loved ones if you do in fact use a will to state your final wishes. Another disadvantage is the forfeiture of privacy. Anyone that has an interest can access probate records to find out how you decided to distribute your assets. This information can potentially cause hard feelings among family members and others.
It is totally possible to avoid these drawbacks through the utilization of a revocable living trust as an alternative to a last will. You don’t have to be concerned about losing control of the assets in the trust, because it is revocable. As the grantor of the trust, you can act as the trustee and the beneficiary while you are alive and well, and you name beneficiaries to assume these roles after you are gone.
When the time comes, the successor trustee that you name in the trust declaration would distribute assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes. These distributions would not be subject to the costly and time-consuming process of probate. This is one major benefit that you gain when you use a revocable living trust, but there are others.
A revocable living trust is a good choice for a wide range of different people, but there are other trusts that can satisfy more complicated aims. There is no one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter estate plan, and this is why it is so very important to discuss your situation with a licensed attorney.
Download Our Free Estate Planning Worksheet!
If you would like to learn more about important estate planning topics, download our worksheet. It is being offered free of charge right now, and you can visit this page to obtain access to your copy.
- How Estate Planning for a Family May Trap the Unwary Practitioner - August 31, 2022
- State Income Taxation of Social Security Benefits - August 24, 2022
- Understanding Tax Apportionment Clauses - August 17, 2022