Articles Tagged with DIY estate planning

As more people become interested in drafting estate plans—recognizing the inherent benefits to planning ahead—they wonder whether they can do it themselves. This approach—called DIY estate planning—is when people utilize websites and books to draft their own Houston estate plan. While this may appear to be a more cost-effective and quicker solution, there are major drawbacks to DIY estate plans that Texans might not realize at first. Below are some aspects to consider when deciding whether to draft a DIY estate plan or to work with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney throughout the process.

Why an Estate Plan is Not So “Simple”

Many individuals starting the estate planning process assume it will be simple: they only need a basic will, detailing who will receive their assets and belongings when they pass away. However, it is rarely that easy. Websites may be effective for filling out a generic form, but then people do not know what else, if anything, should be included in the estate plan. Not only are most Texans unaware of the other critical aspects of an estate plan—such as tax planning, financial planning, and senior care—but they assume a will can be a page or two long without getting into the details. Estate planning attorneys go beyond creating a will: they help people create healthcare documents—so doctors know what to do with end-of-life care—and financial planning documents so loved ones are secure in their future finances. This goes above what a DIY website can provide.

When people start to think about the Houston estate planning process, they often think about doing it themselves. Either because of cost or other reasons, they believe this to be a better option than hiring an estate planning attorney. These estate plans, nicknamed DIY estate plans, are often riddled with mistakes and can be extremely expensive to fix. In fact, it is often far cheaper to hire an estate planning attorney to draft the plan first than to create a DIY estate plan that ultimately cannot be executed. Below are some common questions individuals have when debating whether to create an estate plan themselves, or to contact an experienced estate planning attorney.

What if I Have a Straightforward Situation?

People often assume they only need to hire an estate planning if they have millions of dollars in assets or have a complicated familial situation. However, these are not the only people that can benefit from utilizing an estate planning attorney because there is no such thing as a straightforward situation. Not surprisingly, every person and their loved ones are unique, so their estate plan needs to be unique too. DIY estate planning websites do not ask very specific questions about the client, instead just inquiring about their relatives and who they would want to care for their minor children if they were to pass away. This does not delve into the questions necessary to create an appropriate estate plan.

Individuals who are considering drafting a will should consult with a Houston attorney to ensure that their document is legally binding and effectively communicates their wishes. Wills provide representatives and loved ones with crucial guidance on how to name executors, appoint guardians for children and pets, and distribute property after someone dies. Many people fail to create wills or attempt to draft these documents themselves; however, doing so can lead to many issues and conflicts. You should contact an experienced Houston area estate planning attorney to ensure that your final wishes are properly executed.

Each state has specific requirements that a will must comply with to be legally binding. In Texas, wills are valid if the testator is at least 18-years-old, of sound mind, and there were at least two credible witnesses present at the signing. In cases where the will is oral, there must be three credible witnesses. Many Texans believe that drafting a will is sufficient to make it legally binding; however, there are often additional documents and notary signatures that must be executed. Some documents include, but are not limited to, healthcare power of attorney designations, financial power of attorney designations, and disposition of remains and property directives.

Individuals who chose to write their own wills often fail to meet all of the requirements that make a will binding. Wills should include the appropriate language, correct signatures, and account for any property or possessions that people may fight over. Although, do-it-yourself and handwritten wills might be valid, they often create challenges for loved ones as the will passes through probate court.

Couple paintingPeople have many options today for creating their own estate planning documents. Forms can be purchased quickly from websites and books. However, trying to create your own estate plan can actually be more expensive than hiring an attorney.

Everyone knows that attorneys can be expensive. This is just as true for estate planning attorneys as it is for other types of attorneys. An entire industry has sprung up to give consumers a cheaper option for some supposedly routine legal matters, like estate plans. Forms are available for downloading online that promise buyers they just need to read the instructions and fill in the blanks to create their own wills and trusts.

One major problem with these services is when estate planning is not done properly it is much more expensive to fix things than it would have been to hire an attorney to do things right in the first place.

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