Would you perform your own operation? A Do it Yourself estate plan is very similar. While it is certainly possible to create your own Will or Living Trust using an online service, software package, or a pre-printed template, using these “Do It Yourself” estate planning options may yield unintended consequences when you pass away.
ANN ALDRICH’S STORY OF DO IT YOURSELF ESTATE PLANNING
There is a cautionary tale in Aldrich v. Basile. Florida resident, Ann Aldrich, used a form from a Do it Yourself Estate Planning service to leave all her property to her brother. Yet, since the form did not have a residuary clause providing for the disposition of property unlisted in her document, her nieces– the daughters of her deceased brother who was named in the Will– were able to successfully contest the Will and inherit Aldrich’s bank accounts. The court found that Aldrich’s bequest did not include property she had inherited after signing the Will. A residuary clause would have corrected this problem, but the form did not have such a clause.
“Do-It-Yourself” estate plans can cause many undesired and potentially expensive results because they are generic forms designed for generic situations– but no one’s life is generic. Every person’s financial, family, and legal situation is unique. Do it yourself estate planning kits cannot adequately cover your needs if you own a share in a small business, or wish to leave money to grandchildren instead of your children, have children from a previous marriage, or wish to arrange long-term care for a disabled beneficiary. The possibilities are endless and so are the potential problems that can be caused by a DIY estate plan.
THE SAFER ALTERNATIVE
Your estate plan should carry out your wishes precisely as you intend and provide financial stability to your beneficiaries, protect your assets for future generations, and protect the privacy of your loved ones. Just as you would never decide to perform a complicated medical procedure on yourself, don’t trust a kit, website, or form to accomplish your estate planning goals. Using a reputable law firm’s estate planning services can ensure your assets are distributed as you wish.