Downfalls of DIY Estate Planning

The rapid progression and convenience of the internet has made it easy to retrieve millions of free or affordable documents and software. This includes tools that purport to draft an estate plan from the comfort of your own home and with the click of a few buttons. However, consumers should be wary of establishing wills, trusts, and powers of attorney from these online sources since they could cause irreparable disaster for your family in the event of your disability or death.

One size does not fit all
A big problem with online estate planning tools is that there are not many options that tailor to an individual’s unique situation. For example, the needs of an unmarried man in his late twenties with modest assets is very different than an elderly couple with grown children. Additionally, creativity and flexibility of a software system is limited by its programmer. Working with an estate planning attorney ensures that you have the benefit of options and solutions customized to your situation and objectives.

Laws can change
A major flaw of DIY sources is that they do not follow up with the user to advise of changes to estate planning laws that have occurred in each state or at the federal level.  It is also important to remember that these websites are not permitted to give legal advice – they even proclaim that estate planning tools should not be used as a substitute for an attorney and typically limit their own liability to the cost of the software or program purchased. On the other hand, lawyers keep up with these changes and new information (and, depending on the scope of their services with the client, pass that information along when they become aware of it).  Lawyers also take responsibility for doing the plan right.   

Easy to make mistakes
An estate plan has no room for errors. Inaccuracies are even more prevalent when drafting your own estate plan online. The slightest mistake can prove disastrous and it oftentimes, it won’t be discovered until you’ve become disabled or have died – and then, it is far too late to repair. Ultimately, hiring an experienced estate planning attorney is the best and most cost-effective option to ensure that your wishes are followed.

While people might find DIY estate planning tools to be convenient and affordable, they should ask themselves: Is the risk worth the reward?


Click here to learn more about estate planning essentials, including the difference between a will and a living trust.


*It should be remembered that these are general guidelines and the specifics of estate planning will ultimately depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.