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Don’t DIY It: Why Online Wills and Trusts Might Not Hold Up

In recent years, it seems like DIY estate planning services are popping up everywhere. These providers allow you to prepare your Wills and Trusts online at a considerably lower cost than it would take to hire an estate planning attorney. Sounds great, right? Then, let’s consider the old adage “you get what you pay for”.

Consider the case of one Washington state man: With the help of an online program, he drew up a Will, splitting his estate evenly between his son and daughter. A few years later, his son told him that he was getting divorced and filing for bankruptcy and asked him to put his share in a trust. The dad instead went back to his online program and changed the will to give everything to his daughter, expecting that she would give his son his share after he passed. When the time came, though, the daughter refused to turn it over and the son received nothing.

Wills and Trusts Online

This horror story is among many that people who make use of DIY Wills can share because there are so many moving parts when it comes to Wills and Trusts that it is very difficult for non-professionals to make sure that all their bases are covered and forms definitely do not adequately guide the non-professional In fact, forms can actually make you lose your “plan” if it is not done properly.  And, having it “done properly” does not just mean that the document states what you want now as to your “stuff” and is validly executed. Rather, a valid, fully integrated plan is created like playing Chess, i.e. you need to think of not only today, but of the other potential moves life can make and your plan, including your Will or Trust, needs to adequately provide responsive moves.  Wills and Trusts are complex legal documents that require professional assistance to properly draft, integrate and implement.  DIY estate planning services do not come with the larger, more wide-ranging advice that an experienced attorney can provide. In the case of the Washington man, a professional would have helped him set up a trust to protect his son’s inheritance and warned him of the potential conflict that could arise from giving everything to his daughter.

Wills and Trusts for Larger Estates

Generally speaking, the larger your estate, the more complicated the estate planning process. If you have a complex estate that involves a diverse range of assets, using a DIY Will is especially dangerous. For larger estates, too, the question of tax law becomes particularly important. With the code changing in recent years with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and other subsequent laws, understanding the intricacies of tax law can be a brain-bending experience for the amateur. While DIY estate planning tools can help you with these tax considerations, they can also leave you vulnerable to highly significant penalties that can decimate the value of your estate.

Ditch the DIY

For all these reasons and more, working with a professional estate planning attorney is essential to securing your peace of mind. Programs that let you draw up Wills and Trusts online may be cheaper and seemingly easier options, but there’s a reason they cost less. In the end, they will likely end up costing you and/or your family much more.

At The Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith, we have many years of experience helping our clients build secure and durable estate plans. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to reach out, either by calling (936) 301-0111 or using the contact form on our website.

Monique Hineline

Smith & Smith are very professional, informative, and relatable with examples and stories to ease the estate planning process. I had the best time at their lunch and learn. Even if you already have your estate planning in place I highly recommend attending a lunch and learn. Thanks Smith & Smith!