There are copious amounts of information available online about do-it-yourself estate planning. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should, the same way it’s always a bad idea to represent yourself in court – even if you’re an attorney. This is not a leaky shower repair you may be able to amble your way through – this is your financial future, and the best means you have of keeping yourself and your loved ones out of probate litigation.
Although reason it’s better to have something than nothing at all (64 percent of Americans don’t have a will – 55 percent of those being parents), the fact is if you are not experienced in handling these types of complex legal matters and anticipating certain contingencies, you may end up creating even more of a mess. Far too many people underestimate the complexity of their estate. It goes beyond simply divvying up the contents of a bank account. Everything – from identifying an executor or trustee to updating your beneficiary lists to gifting money to minors – all of these things require careful consideration.
Drafting your estate plan should come only after a well-thought-out estate and financial plan. If all you do is “fill-in-the-blanks,” that is not reflective of such a process. Further, one size does not fit all, and you also need to be sure that the document you have completed meets all the requirements for what is valid in your state. For instance, F.S. 732.502 requires two witnesses to properly execute a will in Florida, while Pennsylvania requires three. Further, these witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator and each other, which generally requires a self-proving affidavit. Usually, it’s the drafting attorney who signs these affidavits in your presence, but if you do-it-yourself on the internet, you won’t have this option. Continue reading