In these times of uncertainty, many people are scrambling to get their affairs in order. The ease and convenience of online estate planning documents are tempting. However, your estate plan should be as unique as your family. A one-size-fits-all document is unlikely to cover all contingencies and may result in major headaches further down the road.
Looking toward the future
One of the biggest pitfalls of DIY estate planning is that mistakes aren’t visible until it’s too late. The person who created the estate plan is gone and cannot come back to correct any errors. This leaves family members holding the bag and can lead to ugly and costly family disputes.
Even if a family is largely in agreement with an estate plan, the administration process can still be tied up in probate, sometimes for years. Some other concerns to be aware of involving “canned” estate plans include:
- Differences in state laws: Estate planning laws differ from state to state. Some states may require disinterested witnesses to observe the signing of a will. In addition, laws change all of the time. A pre-printed estate planning form from a year ago may already be out of date.
- Care of minor children: If your minor children find themselves without their parents, who will step in to care for them? There are a number of considerations to keep in mind when naming a guardian. An online estate planning document simply cannot account for the big picture when making such a momentous decision.
Do-it-yourself estate planning documents can be useful for helping you think about your legacy and what you would like for your family. However, you shouldn’t rely on pre-printed documents to account for every contingency or to accurately reflect your wishes. You should always turn to a legal professional when it comes time to plan for your family’s future.