Seven Risks of DIY Estate Planning

Aurora Attorney for Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and More

The one-size-fits-all mentality of online do-it-yourself estate planning websites is dangerous. Estate planning is complex and difficult, and the DIY approach often backfires and the end result may be thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and court costs. More importantly, estate litigation tears up families. Hiring an experienced estate planning attorney provides peace of mind and, in many cases, cost savings. An estate planning lawyer’s most valuable service is not the final estate planning documents but rather the counseling and advice on how to set up and administer your estate plan. The counseling and advice part is what separates an experienced and inexperienced estate planning attorney. DIY methods often fail to account for the unique issues involved in the estate plan development and implementation process. Sean Robertson and Robertson Legal Group, LLC concentrate in wills, living trusts, advanced healthcare directives, and estate planning in the Western Suburbs of Chicago in Naperville and Aurora. 

Risk #1: Failure to Follow Legal Requirements

The first legal risk of DIY estate planning is the failure to follow proper formalities. In Illinois, a Last Will must be in writing and witnessed by at least two witnesses. The Last Will and Testament should also be notarized (but not by any witnesses or family members). The creator of the Will or otherwise known as a “Testator” must sign the will in the proper places. Second, the Will must be witnessed by two independent witnesses. Independent witnesses mean that the witnesses should not be relatives nor receiving any benefit under the will or serving in a fiduciary role. DIY mistakes are costly and may result in estate and probate disputes.

Risk #2: Ambiguous Terms and Lack of Anticipation

The second legal risk for DIY estate planning the possibility of drafting legal instruments that are unclear. Well-drafted legal documents are concise and easy to interpret. Client-friendly wills and trusts are easy to understand. Sean Robertson writes client-friendly wills and trusts without legalese.

Ambiguous terms or a lack of key terms can create chaos in the future. An experienced estate planning attorney provides predictability. Predictability leads to peace of mind. Sean Robertson and Robertson Legal Group, LLC use estate planning software customized for estate planning attorneys. The resulting documents are well-written and concise.

DIY documents may also fail to anticipate life events such as the adoption of a child or a new born child being born to the marriage (or as their grandchildren). Anticipating life’s events are important for estate planning attorneys because clients fail to update their documents. Anticipating life events is an important part of the estate planning process.

Risk # 3: Failing to Account for Family Conflicts

The third legal risk of DIY estate planning is a failure to anticipate family conflicts. Estate planning attorneys hear multiple stories about estate plans gone wrong. This experience is invaluable because it allows estate planning attorneys to account for the possibility of  future family conflicts.

Today’s families are diverse and parents have children out of wedlock. Blended families present unique estate planning challenges. These challenges must be addressed and anticipated. A good estate planning lawyer asks the right questions, and the right questions lead to the right outcomes. Clients know the answers if asked, but a failure to anticipate a conflict or ask the right questions can result in probate and estate litigation.

Risk #4: Failure to Understand Tax Laws

The fourth legal risk for DIY estate planning is the failure to understand complex estate and gift tax laws. Families often underestimate the value of their estate, and many do not consider life insurance death benefits when considering their wealth. An improper estate plan can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes. Sean Robertson and Robertson Legal Group, LLC understand when a family may be subject to estate and gift taxes and can help put a proper plan in place that includes various types of tax-minimizing trusts.

Risk #5: Failure to Consider Special Needs of a Child or Other Beneficiaries

The fifth legal risk of DIY estate planning is failing to understand the laws that govern Medicaid and public benefits. Families of special-needs individuals must consider the impact that receiving an inheritance will have on an heir with special needs. Even a modest inheritance can disqualify person with special needs from Medicaid or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits.

A well-structured estate planning is crucial to maintaining proper assistance for disabled adults. A Last Will and Testament should have special needs language in case a person has an incapacity or disability. DIY plans often fail to understand incapacity as a major estate planning risk.

Risk #6: Risk of Divorce and Creditor Concerns

The sixth legal risk of DIY estate planning is failing to understand the impact of divorce and creditor concerns. Customized estate planning trusts can include provisions that protect a beneficiary’s inheritance from creditors and divorcing spouses. There are also certain types of trusts called “Bloodline Trusts” that can be used to keep family assets in the family. DIY plans are usually not able to account for such unique concerns.

Risk #7: Every Estate Plan is Different

The seventh legal risk for DIY estate planning is failing to recognize that each estate plan should be as unique as each family is. Do-it-yourself plans are often boilerplate and not particularly easy to customize to meet complex needs. An estate planning attorney can help identify your needs and address them with the right tools and instruments that will protect your family for many years to come.

Contact Our Office Today

Sean Robertson and Robertson Legal Group, LLC provide customized estate planning for families in the Western Suburbs of Aurora, Plainfield, Romeoville, Wheaton, Geneva, St. Charles, and Naperville, Illinois. Sean Robertson has over 14 years of experience as an estate planning and asset protection lawyer and is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Contact our office by calling 630-882-9117 or use our online contact form.