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Online services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer allow customers to produce Wills and other estate planning documents inexpensively without the assistance of an attorney.  Understandably, many consumers are attracted by low upfront costs; however, they fail to appreciate the dangers and shortcomings of eliminating professional guidance from their estate planning.

We suspect that most DIY estate plans substantially achieve the customer’s objectives.  So if you opt for a DIY estate plan, it will probably work out OK.  But is this a gamble you are willing to take with your life savings?

The consequences of a failed plan can be catastrophic.  The most common problems with a failed plan are unintended allocations of assets and unnecessary tax burdens.  However, that is often just the beginning.  A faulty DIY plan can create confusion and frustration among family members and exacerbate any underlying tension.  Upset family members may question the integrity of the plan and other family members.  Substantial delay and attorneys’ fees may result.

We have witnessed more than one flawed DIY estate plan that has incurred tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and years of conflict to conclude administration.  And even upon resolution, the only thing the family members may agree about is that the ultimate disposition is not what the decedent wanted.

While no one can force your family to get along, a competent attorney can ensure that your estate planning documents clearly accomplish your objectives and are not the source of family conflict.

In the absence of competent attorney advice, you will never know whether your plan is enforceable.  Your family will find out only when it is too late – i.e., after you die!!

We will publish a series of articles discussion the various problems with DIY planning, including a cost comparison.  If you are considering utilizing a DIY estate planning solution, we encourage you to consider these issues before you proceed.