Have you considered a DIY estate plan? Beware of the potential risks. DIY estate planning has many pitfalls. You risk not having the right legal documents in place and even if you do, if you try to write your own, you might not make the right choices for your future. Let us take a look at three big risks of DIY estate planning.

1. Not Having the Right Documents. In order to most effectively protect your future with an estate plan, you need the right documents. If you DIY your estate plan, you might not have them. Beyond having a will, there are other important documents, such as health care documents. At a minimum, you will probably need a Power of Attorney and health care surrogate in place as well as a will or trust. In most instances in California, a trust is a must. All of these specific documents are not always part of basic estate plans available in do-it-yourself programs, and unless you are an attorney who specializes in estate planning or elder care law, figuring out the right combination to help ensure you are protected can be impossible. Also, planning, which takes specialized knowledge, like planning for the elderly or disabled, is rarely adequate in a DIY plan

2. Not Updating Your Estate Plan. In all likelihood, even if you found these documents online and filled in the blanks correctly, there may be times when you need to update them in order to make sure they remain an accurate reflection of your goals for yourself and your future. What happens if the person you choose as personal representative or health care surrogate is no longer available, or if you get divorced and never remove your ex-spouse’s name from estate planning documents? Unfortunately, doctors will go by what is written down. So, your ex-spouse could remain vested with the power to decide whether palliative or life-saving medical care will be provided to you, because your documents assigning a durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney were not updated. If you are widowed, and your spouse is not here to make decisions for you any further, the doctors will ask your next of kin to do so, even if they may not actually be the right choice.

3. Not Including the Right Language. The proper terminology and execution of estate planning documents is critical to their effectiveness and validity. There is no one-size-fits-all in estate planning. Laws regarding the language and requirements for estate planning documents vary significantly by state. Should your documents fail to properly observe such formalities, they may be found invalid in whole or part.

Get estate planning legal counsel you can trust. Our office is available to create a strong, comprehensive estate plan that will meet your unique needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.