DIY Estate Planning vs. Working with a Lawyer

April 20, 2021 in Articles | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

The whole purpose of seeking out an experienced local estate planning attorney is to find a legal professional who not only understands the laws of your state, but also knows how to identify potential issues involved in your particular situation and counsel you on how to go about solving them with an estate plan created specifically for you and your family.

Unfortunately, many people erroneously believe that estate planning is a matter of simply writing a will stating to whom they want their assets to go when they die. They also erroneously believe that they don’t need a lawyer to do this and in fact can save a lot of time and money by going online and downloading a form. Hopefully you are not one of these people. If you aren’t proactive now, you may leave a significant burden and unnecessary costs behind that your loved ones will need to grapple with. You may also cause otherwise preventable stress concerning administration of your estate that can be avoided if you connect with an attorney who can help you create a workable, enforceable estate plan that accurately represents your needs, preferences, and interests. 

DIY Downsides

The main problem with downloadable DIY will forms is that they’re one-size-fits-all forms full of legal sounding mumbo jumbo, also called boilerplate, that may or may not apply to your specific situation. In other words, be advised that even if you think you only need a “simple” will, you can cause a lot of unforeseen problems for yourself and your heirs if you use one.

As an experienced estate administration lawyer, including those employed at Kaplan Law Practice, LLC can explain, each state has its own laws regarding how a will must be signed and witnessed, or possibly notarized, in order to make it valid. Since most downloadable DIY will forms aren’t state specific, this poses an immediate problem.

In addition, when you add your own information to a DIY form, you now, in effect, have two wills: the boilerplate one provided by the company from which you bought the form and the one you hand wrote or typed into it. This could, and often does, create problems for your heirs after you die, which may lead your will to be subjected to the probate process (an expensive and potentially complex process that can sometimes be avoided through a proactive estate planning approach). Your loved ones may well end up spending far more in attorneys’ fees, court costs and other expenses than you saved by using a form instead of seeking the advice and counsel of an experienced local estate planning attorney.

Value of an Attorney

The value of an estate planning attorney cannot be overstated. Not only can he or she draft a will specific to your needs, he or she can also make certain it’s properly signed and witnessed or notarized. In addition, he or she can also help you determine what other documents your estate plan needs, such as a living trust, an advance directive, a durable health care power of attorney, etc. An attorney can also help you select a responsible administrator for your estate, in order to better ensure that your wishes are carried out fully and efficiently after your death.

Contact Our Virginia Lawyers

We serve clients throughout Virginia — from Charlottesville and Central Virginia to metropolitan Richmond; Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley to Roanoke; and the cities of Hampton Roads to the Northern Virginia cities of  Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington.

To speak with one of our attorneys, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at MartinWren, P.C. have a statewide practice and offer free consultations at a time and location that is convenient for you.  We will gladly meet with you at your home or at the hospital, even on nights and weekends.


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