Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning – Always a Bad Idea

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Never write your own will.

I don’t care how many do-it-yourself books you’ve read or how many seminars you’ve attended.

Writing your own will is always a bad idea.

Here’s why.

Wills Are Inexpensive

Here in western Massachusetts you can easily find an experienced attorney who will draft a basic will for $100 or $200.

The cost may rise based on your circumstances.

For instance, you may pay more if

1. You have a large estate (over $1 million).

2. You’re remarried and you have children from a previous marriage.

3. You want to make an unusual bequest (e.g., leave your estate to a charity, donate your body to science, etc.).

But for everyone else a simple and inexpensive estate plan will work.

So, rather than waste your time and money on a do-it-yourself will, simply call a few lawyers in the area and find one who’s willing to assist you for a reasonable price.

Mistakes Are Costly

At best, you’ll save a few hundred dollars by drafting your own will.

However, if you make a mistake it could cost your estate thousands of dollars.

A mistake could also add months or even years to the probate process.

Here are some very common mistakes that do-it-yourselfers often make:

1. They name far too many heirs in their will.

2.  They make too many itemized bequest (e.g, “my jewelry to my niece”, “my antique clock to my grandson”, etc.)

3.  They make conditional gifts.  For example, “I leave $10,000 to my granddaughter, if she graduates from college.”

4.  They fail to give adequate authority to their personal representative.

These are just a few of the errors a layman is likely to make.

Any one of them can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees and court costs to correct.

D-I-Y Wills Are Always Given Extra Scrutiny

Here’s a common scenario.

A local lawyer drafts a will for an elderly client.

A few years later the client dies and the family contacts the lawyer to probate the will.

The lawyer brings the will to probate court.

The lawyer knows the court clerks and they know him.

They’ve seen his wills for years

They know that he’s a competent estate planning attorney.

After a quick glance at the paperwork to ensure that there are no glaring defects, the will breezes through the probate process.

This happens because the clerks assume that the will was done correctly.

The opposite happens when a stranger goes to probate court to file a do-it-yourself will.

The clerks are likely to assume that something is wrong with the will.

They’ll closely scrutinize it and they’ll be far more likely to spot an error.

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