A recent article in U.S. News and World Report has brought the battle between professional estate planners and Do-It-Yourself document proponents out into the open. As author Kimberly Palmer points out in the article, lawyers believe Do-It-Yourself is dangerous when it comes to estate planning, and they will certainly tell you so when asked. But here’s the thing—estate planning lawyers rarely get asked. EP attorneys don’t get D-I-Yers coming into their offices to ask questions; it’s the heirs of the D-I-Yers who will have to come in and hire an attorney when the Do-It-Yourself will doesn’t function properly.

There is a lot of legal knowledge, personalization, and attention to detail that goes into an estate plan, even if you are young and think you have negligible assets. The U.S. News article quotes one Brooklyn-based attorney as saying “Unless you are single and have absolutely no money…you need an estate planner.” There are just too many things that can be forgotten, misunderstood, or just plain go wrong; and a small mistake can lead to big problems, even to the extent of invalidating your entire plan.

For example, did you know that…

  • Although a will doesn’t usually have to be notarized, most states do require you to sign it in the presence of witnesses?
  • You should always nominate at least one back-up guardian for your minor children in case your first choice is unwilling or unable?
  • Although there is no estate tax in 2010, many heirs will actually end up paying more because of capital gains taxes?
  • Your will becomes a public document upon your death, leaving your heirs open to criticism, claims and contest suits by predators and disgruntled relatives?

These are issues that could completely de-rail all your good intentions in a Do-It-Yourself document, but would be easy for an estate planning attorney to anticipate and address. Contact our office (or your own trusted, local attorney) to ensure that your estate plan is current, comprehensive, and complies with all state and federal regulations.