If you navigate the Internet looking for information about estate planning, you will invariably stumble upon sites that sell generic template estate planning documents like last wills and revocable living trusts. Everyone likes to save money, so you may be tempted to buy into these DIY notions.
Is it okay to create your own estate planning documents? Technically speaking, it is possible for a layperson to create a legally binding document. However, this is a risky endeavor according to three prominent legal professors.
Just about everyone has heard of the highly respected magazine Consumer Reports. For many years this publication has been providing consumers with very valuable, totally objective information about products and services. They uphold a high standard when it comes to research, evaluations, and advice.
The magazine wanted to find out if do-it-yourself estate planning is truly effective. They enlisted the services of three different legal professors who are associated with three major universities.
Staffers created last wills using downloads and worksheets that are offered by three of the most prominent online purveyors of legal documents. They asked the legal professors to examine the documents that they created.
The legal professors stated that the documents were lacking in various different ways. They cited the possibility of the inclusion of conflictimg clauses and pointed out other limitations.
In the final analysis, Consumer Reports could not recommend do-it-yourself estate planning.
Choosing the Right Documents
The Consumer Reports study found that documents that you construct using generic templates that you acquire online may yield unintended consequences. However, there is another factor to consider.
There are many different ways that you can arrange for future asset transfers. The optimal course of action is going to vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances. The typical layperson is not going to be aware of all the options that are out there, and as a result, the wrong documents could be created.
To provide one simple example, people with special needs are often enrolled in need-based government programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. If you leave a direct inheritance to someone who is enrolled in these programs, benefit eligibility could be lost.
There is a certain type of trust called a supplemental needs trust that should be executed under these circumstances to preserve government benefits.
People who are exposed to the estate tax must implement advanced techniques to ease the burden. Asset protection is a priority for some people, and this can require specialized planning as well.
You should certainly discuss everything with a licensed estate planning attorney before you make any assumptions.
Download Our Special Report
If you would like to learn more about the dangers of DIY estate planning, download our free special report on the subject. You can gain access to the report through this link: DIY Estate Planning Report.