A do-it-yourself spirit is admirable, and there are many projects where DIY planning and work can save you money and even time. Most experts agree that legal matters are not one of those projects. One woman wrote to Bankrate about resources for DIY estate planning. The Bankrate author responded that while there are many opportunities for educating yourself about estate matters online, going without any professional legal assistance might cost more in the end.
Legal representation does come with costs, said the author, but mistakes in the estate planning and administration process can be even more costly. Lawyers can help you make solid legal decisions that hold up to federal, state and local laws. Without experience and in-depth knowledge, it's easy to make decisions that hold up only under some circumstances or don't take all financial and legal matters into consideration.
For example, estate plans should consider the possibility of estate taxes. Those taxes can be levied at both federal and state levels, depending on where you live. Even if you feel you have a good handle on the laws in your state, what happens if you move to a different state? If you aren't timely in amending your estate plans and documents, your heirs could be left with major probate issues.
Even if you don't move states, if you plan for estate issues early in life and never update those documents, you could leave behind issues. Are your heirs still the same? What if someone had children or got married? What if someone died or divorced? These are potential life events that a lawyer can help you plan for within the body of your estate documents.
While learning about estate legalities is always a good idea, working on your own leaves you and your heirs vulnerable. With the help of someone experienced in the law, you can close loopholes and other issues in your estate before they become a probate problem.
Source: Bankrate, "DIY is no substitute for a lawyer in estate planning," Dr. Don Taylor, accessed Sep. 28, 2015