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There is a common expression we hear a lot “penny wise and pound foolish,” but we rarely hear it being used by a state supreme court justice to describe a situation that could have been avoided. Since we live in the technology era, everyone believes they can self diagnose themselves or even write their own legal documents by using the internet.
There are typically two reasons people use the internet to create their estate plan: (1) It’s cheap, and (2) It’s better than not having any estate plan. While these may sound like good reasons on the surface, if you dig a little deeper they are foolhardy and can be downright dangerous.
When you use the internet to create your estate plan the do it yourself sources are usually relevant to simple estates. This means that when presented with even the most common complexity the plan falls apart. Life is too complicated and it is too easy to make a mistake with your planning to chance it on a quick google search or visit to legalzoom. Oftentimes there are complexities that must be taken into account like children from a prior marriage, children with special needs, tax concerns, and family businesses. These complexities must be taken into careful consideration when creating an estate plan by a qualified professional – not the internet.
Additionally, there are very specific laws and instructions that must be followed when drafting and executing even the most common estate planning documents, such as a General Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy, a Living Will, a Last Will and Testament. If these instructions and laws are not followed then the documents could be invalid and thus ineffective. This could result in consequences you never intended. You may not even realize the consequences during your lifetime, but your loved ones will suffer the lasting consequences of your “do-it-yourself” mistakes after you die. In the end, the mistakes you make in creating your own estate plan will cost your loved ones more than any legal fee you would have paid to have it done right initially.
Legal advice –
The internet provides a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. However, there is no use in obtaining this information without the understanding of how it applies to your specific situation. A qualified attorney will have requisite experience and expertise to provide you with all the opportunities available to you and create a plan that will meet your goals. Another advantage of a qualified attorney over the internet is practical experience. There is the law in black and white and then there is the real world. A qualified attorney will have a knowledge base of both and will inform you of what to do and how to get it done.
Laws change –
The law is constantly changing because of new and revised legislation and case law. This is especially true in terms of taxes and government benefits. It is the job of a qualified attorney to keep up with the changes in the law and to advise his or her clients accordingly.
There are a lot of risks involved in creating your own estate plan. It may seem cheap and easy to use the internet to create your estate plan, but don’t be penny wise and pound foolish with something as important as your legacy.