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5 Ways DIY Estate Plans Can Fail & Leave Your Family At Risk—Part 2

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Last week, in part one of this series, we covered the first two ways DIY estate plans can fail. This week we will cover the remaining three.

An Inconvenient Truth Relying on DIY or online estate planning documents can be one of the costliest mistakes you can make for your loved ones. Keep in mind, just because you created “legal” estate planning documents that do not mean they will actually work when you—or most importantly, the people you love—need them. 

Without a thorough understanding of your family dynamics, the nature of your assets, and how the legal process works upon your death or incapacity, you are likely to make serious mistakes when creating a DIY estate plan. Even worse, these mistakes will be discovered when it is too late—and the loved ones you were trying to protect will be the very ones forced to do the cleanup. This could leave them stuck in a costly and traumatic court process that can drag out for months or even years. 

Number 3 Way Your DIY Estate Plan Can Fail: Choosing the Wrong Executors or Trustees State laws are very specific about who can serve in certain roles like executor, trustee, or financial power of attorney. In some states, for instance, the executor of your will must either be a family member or an in-law and if not, the person must live in your state. If your chosen executor does not meet those requirements, he or she may be excluded from serving.

Some states require the person you name as your executor to be bonded. This is similar to an insurance policy. Such bonds can be difficult to attain for someone who has a less-than-stellar credit score. If your executor cannot get a bond, they will either have to come up with a hefty sum to post the bond, or it would be up to the court to appoint an executor that can get a bond. Ultimately, the court could end up appointing someone whom you would never want managing your assets or a third-party professional, who could drain your estate with costly fees.

Number 4 Way Your DIY Estate Plan Can Fail: Lost and Unclaimed Assets Unless your family knows exactly what assets you own and how to locate and access those assets, that property could be lost when you pass away—and your online will would fail your family when they need it most. In fact, there is currently more than $50 billion worth of unclaimed property sitting in the various state Departments of Unclaimed Property across the U.S. This happens when a family member passes away and their loved ones were unaware of the whereabouts or existence of their assets leaving the state as the only claimant.

To ensure that none of your assets end up in your state’s Department of Unclaimed Property, and your family will know exactly what you have and how to find everything if something happens to you, it is essential to keep a regularly updated inventory of all your assets. As your Life & Legacy Attorney, we help you create a comprehensive asset inventory and conduct regular check-ins to make sure it stays updated throughout your lifetime.

Number 5 Way Your DIY Estate Plan Can Fail: Unforeseen Conflict Between Family Members In some families, the dynamics can be quite complex. This is particularly true for blended families, where one or both spouses have children from previous relationships. A DIY service may miss many of the potential areas where conflict could arise among your family members.

Even the best set of documents will be unable to anticipate and navigate these complex emotional matters—but we can.

Every day we see families ripped apart due to poor estate planning. We also see families brought closer together as a result of handling these matters the right way. When done right, the estate planning process is actually a huge opportunity to build new connections within your family, and our lawyers are specifically trained to help you with that.

Preventing family conflict with proactive estate planning is our special sauce and one of the primary reasons to work with us rather than relying on DIY planning documents.

The Kind of Planning Your Family Deserves When it comes to estate planning, the documents you use are only as good as the understanding your lawyer has about your family dynamics, the nature of your assets, and how the law will apply to your situation upon death or incapacity. In most cases, you will need far more than just a few fill-in-the-blank documents to properly address those complexities. If you truly want things to be as simple as possible for the people you love when something happens to you, you want a trusted counselor who can prepare an estate plan that will achieve your desired objectives with a minimum amount of stress and conflict for the loved ones you are leaving behind. This is where we come in.

If you have yet to do any planning, contact us to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session™, which is the first step in our Life & Legacy Planning Process. During this initial meeting, we will take you through an analysis of your assets, discuss what is most important to you, and uncover what will happen to your loved ones when you pass away or if you become incapacitated.

As part of our planning process, we will inventory all of your assets and ensure they are titled in a way that will keep your family out of court and out of conflict no matter what happens to you. Moreover, we take the time to get to know your family members and include them in the planning process (to the extent that you want them involved), so everyone affected by your plan is well-aware of your latest planning strategies, why you made the choices you did, and understands exactly what they need to do if something happens to you. Additionally, if you are the parent of minor children, we will put safeguards in place to ensure that your kids are never placed into the care of strangers. Our Life & Legacy Planning process will ensure that it is not just your money and tangible assets that get preserved and passed on, but also your family’s intangible legacy, which includes your family’s most treasured values, insights, stories, and mementos. We capture and record your family’s legacy using a unique process known as a Family Wealth Legacy Interview, which is included with every estate plan we create.

Life & Legacy Planning Estate planning is about far more than planning for your death and passing on your assets to your loved ones—it is about planning for a life you love and a legacy worth leaving by the choices you make today. This is why we call our services Life & Legacy Planning. As your lawyer, we are specifically trained to educate, empower, and support you to make the right decisions for the people you love and get to know what really matters most to you. Furthermore, because your plan is designed to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity, we are here to serve your entire family.

Our Life & Legacy Planning services go far beyond simply creating documents and then never seeing you again. We will develop a relationship with you and your family that lasts for your lifetime and the lifetime of your children and their children if that is your wish. While the DIY approach might be a good idea if you are looking to build a new deck for your backyard, when it comes to estate planning, it is one of the worst choices you can make. Are you really willing to put your family’s well-being and wealth at risk just to save a few bucks? If you want to do right by those you love, contact us, to get your Life & Legacy Plan started today.

This article is a service of Reflections Life Planning LLC. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

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