New Yorkers who are considering their options for estate planning might be tempted to avoid the perceived costs and hassles of having a legal professional do it for them. In other words, they might take the DIY option as if it is some household project about which they can follow a set of instructions to complete it or make it up as they go along with no long-term harm done. There are some cases in which it might be sufficient to do a basic set of estate planning documents and not get legal help, but for most this is a mistake.
The needs and their complexity will dictate how much help is needed. If the estate is simple or there are few if any heirs, then there might not be a need to have a drawn-out process. However, for people who already have an estate plan and want to change it, have substantial assets, are in a family situation that is complicated, have young children or are seeking different types of plans based on various potential issues, it is imperative to have legal help.
No matter how vigilant a person is when doing his or her own estate plan, there will inevitably be things missed. An attorney will have a checklist of points to address, will understand the individual needs and tailor a plan for the person. Estate planning often carries with it major financial ramifications and a mistake can cause problems for the testator and the heirs if it is not done correctly. If there is property that the testator wants a specific heir to have and another person wants it, failing to adhere to proper legal protocol can put the document up for dispute and a challenge might be successful.
In certain cases, it could be harmless to do an estate plan without comprehensive legal assistance. However, a legal professional can provide various strategies and advice that will make the estate planning documents organized and complete. Even if the plan can be done by an individual, there is no harm with speaking to an attorney first. Before doing anything that could cause problems later, this is essential.
Source: marketwatch.com, “The problems with doing your own estate planning,” Cheryl Winokur Munk, Aug. 16, 2017