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Estate planning

The Perils of Do-it-Yourself Estate Planning

While it may be tempting to believe creating your estate plan with do-it-yourself documents will save you money, it can be costly in the end, both financially and in terms of family well-being. Estate planning involves important decisions about how your assets will be distributed after you die and who will manage your affairs. Planning should entail considerations regarding family dynamics, long term care planning, probate avoidance, tax implications and other matters relative to your situation. Legal counsel in making decisions and properly documenting your wishes is invaluable. In short, online do-it-yourself resources are not tailored to your family’s specific needs and may not consider important legal requirements specific to our State. Without legal training, you are likely to have significant legal blind spots. This can create a situation where you have a false sense of security about your planning.

Basics of an Estate Plan- The Core 3

A basic estate plan typically includes the following documents:

  • A Will – This document outlines the ‘who gets what’, names a personal representative to oversee your affairs, and designates guardians for your minor children. If you die without a will (this is called intestate), the distribution of your assets will follow state intestacy laws and may not reflect your wishes. This means the State is deciding who gets your assets, how they will pass and may allow someone you would not choose to handle the administration of your estate.
  • Power of Attorney – A general durable power of attorney names and authorizes a person or people (Agent) to make legal and financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated.
  • Advance Health Care Directive – A health care directive names a person or people (also, Agent) to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable. This document also allows you to state your preferences for health care, end-of-life care and donations of your organs or other parts of your body after your death.

The Legal Details

Drafting your will without legal oversight creates a significant risk of error. People pay for professional expertise to prevent problems they aren’t aware of or haven’t considered. This advice leads to more successful outcomes. Your will, trusts, and other estate planning documents must comply with ever-changing State law. Additionally, structuring the ownership of assets to meet specific goals, like asset protection and avoiding probate, is best guided by an Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney familiar with the process.

An experienced estate planning attorney provides more than technical expertise in drafting complex documents. They can provide guidance and counseling for important decisions, helping you identify the best representatives to manage decisions and actions required in your estate plan. A do-it-yourself estate plan is often incomplete or incorrect. Any mistake or oversight can lead to legal complications or disputes during your lifetime, or among your heirs after death. Working with an experienced estate planning firm like DiPietro Law, LLC is essential to ensure your documents meet your needs, goals, and legal requirements.