29 Jun 2014

Estate Planning is Not a DIY Project

Weekends, for many, are the time to engage in “Do It Yourself” (DIY) projects. Not only does working on a DIY project give you a sense of accomplishment, but it also allows you to save the money that you would otherwise spend to hire someone to do it for you. Most DIY projects are practical and make sense that you would do them on your own; such projects would include: painting a room in your home, fixing things around the house, decorating or gardening. There are certain projects, however, that require a special expertise and should not be considered DIY projects for a layperson. Just as you would logically not purchase “Surgery for Dummies” to engage in the DYI project of performing a surgical procedure on yourself, it is similarly not advisable to purchase a “how to” book to plan and prepare your estate plan.

Planning your estate is very important and the law is complex.  It requires the assistance of a legal expert in estate planning to guide you through the tax and non-tax considerations in developing a plan that is specifically tailored to meet your needs. As such, estate planning does not merely involve filling in blanks in form documents, as some on-line legal forms companies would suggest. It does involve carefully evaluating: (1) your tax and non-tax planning needs, (2) whether or not your plan should avoid probate, (3) how to deal with your assets should you become incapacitated; (4) how to deal with your health care and end of life decisions should you become incapacitated; (5) providing for your children as minors and adults; and (6) wealth preservation issues. Once all of these issues have been thoughtfully considered, the estate planning attorney will prepare the documents, see that they are properly executed, and insure that the plan is properly implemented.

Many people who do their own estate plan or go to a service that offers to do the entire estate plan for $799.95 experience problems. Those problems show-up in a variety of ways from improperly executed documents that are ineffective, documents that do not fully dispose of the person’s assets, documents that do not consider a change in life circumstances and have unintended consequences, and unexpected tax consequences (i.e., estate taxes, income taxes and/or property taxes). Unfortunately, most of these problems come to light after the person is deceased. Thus, the person’s surviving loved ones have the emotional and, in many cases, substantial financial burden to rectify the deficiencies in the estate plan.  Also, questions about interpretation of the person’s inartfully prepared DIY estate plan may lead to litigation among the person’s loved ones.

Although treating estate planning as a DIY project may save money now, the results may be an inadequate or improperly prepared estate plan and a large and unnecessary financial burden for loved ones upon the death of the DIY’er.  Estate planning is not an area to be penny wise and pound foolish.

If you would like to discuss this or other trusts and estates issues, please contact the attorneys at Drucker Law Offices, 468 North Camden Drive, 2nd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, 310.285.5375 Tel, 310.444.9754 Fax, www.druckerlaw.com

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