Estate planning is an essential step in securing the future of one’s family. Consequently, the decision whether to create an estate plan on your own or have an attorney handle the matter can be crucial.
It is not unusual to question whether an attorney is needed to prepare an estate plan, and, under certain circumstances, one can prepare a simple last will without the assistance of an attorney. If the estate does not include any real property or other significant assets to be distributed at death, or if the family situation is relatively uncomplicated, a self-made simple last will should suffice if it is correctly drafted and executed. Additionally, very basic powers of attorney for health and financial matters can be located online.
But when the estate involves significant assets or a business, when the family situation is complex, or when there are special needs considerations to be addressed, it is recommended to use the services of an estate planning attorney. The more intricate the situation, the more likely it is that hiring an attorney is the right call as a skilled professional can ensure that the documents are accurate, enforceable, and achieve one’s goals.
The available technology now allows individuals to create their own estate plans via online platforms. Various websites offer estate planning services that are designed to make the process of creating a will, living trust, and other essential documents simple and, importantly, affordable. The benefits of this option include the ease of use, inexpensive cost, and convenience of being able to do it all from the comfort of one’s own home.
However, there are many disadvantages to preparing an estate plan on your own. Very importantly, online estate planning platforms typically offer only basic and non-specific templates, while the estate planning process is often intricate and requires customization and personalization to meet the specific circumstances of each person and family. Furthermore, the online platforms may not always offer documents that reflect the current laws and state-specific rules. This can result in the creation of an estate plan that is not legally valid.
On the other hand, an estate planning attorney can prepare a legally binding and person-specific estate plan. This is crucial, as an invalid will or trust will not offer the peace of mind needed when securing the future of one’s family and estate.
An estate planning attorney can explain the complex and state-specific legal issues, allowing the client to understand the law and circumstances in order to make informed decisions regarding the distribution of one’s estate and the protections afforded and necessary for one’s family.
Additionally, an estate planning attorney can continue to work with the client over time, sometimes for years. Estate planning is an ongoing process, and the estate plan requires regular updates and revisions to accommodate changing laws and one’s life circumstances. Furthermore, an established and trusted relationship with one’s estate planning attorney can continue on and serve the grantor’s fiduciaries and beneficiaries even after the grantor’s death.
Creating one’s own estate plan can be a convenient and inexpensive solution, but it is often prudent to work with a professional estate planning attorney, who can provide tailored advice and direction to help create an estate plan that fits the specific person’s exclusive circumstances as well as can offer ongoing support and guidance to manage the estate plan over time. But whether a person chooses to create their own estate plan or work with an estate planning attorney, the most important is to take steps to secure one’s future and that of their loved ones.
Natalia Vander Laan is a Minden attorney.
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