The Risks Involved With DIY Estate Planning

Kathleen E. Boaz

Author: Kathleen E. Boaz

POST DATE: 7.28.22
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Is DIY Estate Planning really as easy as it seems? With all of the estate planning resources available from a simple google search, a “Do-It-Yourself” template can seem to some, much less daunting than finding and hiring an attorney to draft your estate plan for you. In this blog, we explore the risks associated with DIY estate planning, and why hiring an attorney may save you, or your loved ones, time and money in the future.

Can End Up Costing More Time and Money

It is easy to think you’re saving time and money by drafting your own estate plan. However, without proper guidance, and knowledge of State statute, your estate planning documents may be invalid, and therefore unenforceable, if specific statutory guidelines are not followed.

Further, if an estate plan is drafted poorly, your family may have to hire an attorney to help decipher your testamentary wishes. Should your family disagree on the intention of your estate plan, they may have to engage in legal proceedings to “battle it out” in court and let a judge determine contested issues. Going through this turmoil after your death may have a high financial and emotional cost for your family. It’s not uncommon for this type of litigation to diminish most, if not all, of the financial assets in a decedent’s Estate, and may cost your family years of their time and energy.

Not Tailored to Your State

Just as all states have different criminal laws, states also have different statutory legal requirements for the proper construction of wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. By using a generic form, you risk excluding important language, having improper witnesses, or not properly executing your documents, thus making your documents invalid.

May Not Consider Changes in State Laws

Each state’s laws governing wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents frequently change and modify. When an attorney drafts an estate plan, they are aware of the most updated version of law and can implement changes from statutory developments that may impact the validity of your estate planning documents. A DIY estate plan or template may not take into account those changes in law.

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What Happens When a Will Is Invalid in Indiana?

There are certain legal requirements that must be fulfilled to create an enforceable will. A will is not valid when it fails to meet the specific criteria set out under applicable state law. As a result, an invalid will may cause your estate to be distributed to individuals who may not have been included, or who you purposefully excluded, in your original estate plan.

When a person dies without a will, or with an invalid will, they die “intestate.” This means their estate gets distributed according to Indiana’s intestate succession laws, and not according to their will. Indiana intestacy laws detail a hierarchy of family members who inherit the estate depending on their relation to the decedent. For example, a decedent’s surviving spouse gets half of the decedent’s net estate if a child of the decedent is also still alive. Conversely, a couple has no descendants, but one or both of the decedent’s parents are still living, the parents of the decedent are entitled to take a portion of their estate, with the remaining portion going to the surviving spouse.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Make a Will?

No, there is no requirement for a lawyer to create your estate planning documents. However, an estate planning attorney’s knowledge, experience, and creativity are invaluable. A lawyer can answer questions, develop a strategy, and prepare an estate plan that satisfies your goals and is strong enough to withstand legal challenges. In fact, a well-drafted will greatly lessens the likelihood of any challenges or contests being brought. A template or software program simply cannot provide the level of expertise that you would get from working with an attorney.

Contact Church Church Hittle + Antrim for Your Estate Planning Needs

At Church Church Hittle + Antrim, we have spent the last 140 years offering our clients personalized and exceptional legal services. We work closely with you to understand your needs and develop an estate plan that meets your goals. To schedule a consultation, call one of our offices or contact us online.