Can You and Should You Create a DIY Estate Plan?


Increasingly, we live in a “do it yourself” world. We scan and bag our own groceries in self-checkout lanes; we take selfies, and then edit and print the photos at home. With the help of the Internet, we seek to give ourselves medical diagnoses and to obtain free advice on a range of issues previously left to professionals.

In step with this trend, DIY estate planning is becoming a more and more common activity, but just because it’s popular doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. Here are some things to consider.In step with this trend, DIY estate planning is becoming a more and more common activity, but just because it’s popular doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. Here are some things to consider when determining whether you should make your own estate plan or seek professional help.

If you want to tackle your own estate plan, you don’t have to start with a completely blank slate. Fortunately, there is a variety of software available online that can walk you through the process. However, this software doesn’t mean that you should forgo professional help altogether. Depending on your circumstances, it might not be possible for you to fully create your estate plan on your own with this software.

“An experienced attorney can use legal software more efficiently than you can. More important, he or she can offer customized solutions if your situation is complicated,” according to Consumer Reports Money Advisor. “Your needs are too complex for a do-it-yourself estate plan if you must provide for a disabled child, you owe estate taxes, or you own a business.”

Creating a health care proxy (also known as an advanced health care directive) is one task in your estate planning path that you can likely complete yourself. It determines who will act in your behalf as your health care agent, making important medical decisions, in the event that you are incapacitated and cannot express your own wishes. If you complete this online, make sure to regularly check it to see if it has expired or needs to be updated.

One part of your estate plan that you likely shouldn’t tackle yourself is a durable power of attorney, which provides control of your finances to another person. This typically “springs” into effect based on certain specified events. Examples of events that would cause a durable power of attorney to spring into effect are incapacitation or unavailability for important meetings.

Home equity is the difference between your home’s fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on your house, such as your mortgage and other loans.It is possible to create your own will, but that can be risky if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. There are many common mistakes and little details that can make the process tricky.

“Also ask yourself whether you truly know the intricacies of will-drafting and are willing to take the risk of committing an easy-to-make mistake that will wholly invalidate your will,” states G.M. Filisko for Bankrate. “The most important thing to remember about DIY estate planning is that if you make a mistake that invalidates your will, the entire document will be thrown out.”

This means that the contents of your invalid document won’t be taken into consideration and the specifications you make won’t influence where your assets go. It may seem strange that the contents could be completely ignored just because you make one tiny mistake, but it is the only way to ensure that no illicit changes corrupt your will. These strict rules may make it more complicated to create your will, but they are the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out exactly how you want.

Use this information to help you determine the best and most effective way to go about creating your estate plan, and seek the advice of an attorney or other professional if you have any questions.

 

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