Friends and family often ask me if they really need an attorney to prepare the estate planning documents. There are many forms on the Internet or online services that offer do-it-yourself planning. I admit, these forms are services are much cheaper than paying for an attorney…at least on the front end.
The problem with doing your own estate planning documents is that you lack the legal advice that comes with estate planning documents. This legal advice is an important part of your estate plan; it ties all the legal documents and assets together into an integral, working plan. If you make a mistake in your estate planning documents or in how your assets are held, those mistakes cannot be fixed once you are deceased.
I will admit that, as an attorney, I am biased in writing this post; however, as the attorney in the office that handles most of the probate cases, this year I have seen an increase in awful estate planning documents. Its only August and I have already seen a large number of invalid or incorrect wills, incorrect deeds and invalid trusts. I may be biased, but when mistakes are made, I end up fixing them on the back-end. These errors lead to very expensive probates and often times assets passing to unintended beneficiaries.
Here is a list of the top mistakes I have seen this year:
- Improper witnessing of the will (missing language the Nevada law requires to admit the will to probate)
- Improper titling of real property between spouses
- Failure to designate beneficiaries in the will or trust
- Beneficiaries acting as the witnesses the will
- Failure to fund a trust
When a person has a serious illness, they go to a doctor. Everyone accepts that fact that you need medical advice (not from google) to make sure you get the proper medical treatment. Estate planning is similar, if you choose to do-it-yourself you may end up doing more harm than good. You need an attorney to draft proper documents, integrate assets into those documents and to make sure all the pieces fit together properly. Make sure your documents can speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself.
Attorney – Corey J. Schmutz