Many people procrastinate over arrangements for the succession of their financial legacy and other estate planning concerns. While concerns about the financial investment needed to create an estate plan might provide a motivation for cheap DIY options, these strategies can prove very expensive. Individuals considering self-help estate planning options have a range of alternatives that include DIY guides, pre-printed forms, estate planning software, interactive websites, and typing services (so-called paralegals). This blog discusses the reasons that these “low cost” options can prove extremely expensive.

Changes in the Law: Estate planning constitutes a unique area of law because it covers a broad spectrum of relevant legal issues impacted by many legal specialties. Experienced Bay Area estate planning lawyers have a background in property law, marital/divorce law, tax law, Medicaid benefits law, Veterans law, and many other areas of law that constantly change. Estate planning lawyers bring expertise in these diverse areas of law. Attorneys participate in seminars on new legal developments that facilitate the most current knowledge regarding relevant new California and federal statutes, administrative regulations, and caselaw. Templated forms and non-attorneys do not offer in depth knowledge of the law or thorough familiarity with the constantly evolving law.

Planning vs. Document Preparation: While documents like a will, trust agreement, durable power of attorney, living will, advanced medical directive for healthcare, and others are indispensable components of an effective estate plan, the “plan” portion of this process often gets left out when people rely on commercial software, preprinted forms, or typing services. The process of evaluating your financial situation, family relationships, objectives, and concerns constitutes the core process in developing an estate plan. Estate planning attorneys can develop a comprehensive plan that addresses legacy succession, asset protection, incapacity planning, end-of-life medical decisions, and other issues that impact you and your loved ones. While an individual in a typing service might be able to prepare a simple will from a boilerplate template, for example, he or she lacks the expertise to tell you if you should use a certain type of trust as your primary instrument for passing your financial legacy.

Customization to Fit Specific Needs: While templated forms might technically satisfy legal requirements, they tend to be imprecise and inflexible. Although every person should have certain legal documents as part of their estate plan, the precise scope and terms of those estate planning instruments will depend on your specific wishes, needs, and goals. Bay Area estate planning attorneys who regularly develop estate plans will craft your plan and documents to fit your unique circumstances.

Lack of State Specificity: Many commercially available documents are not adapted to the specific legal requirements and practices of California. While all states might recognize the validity of a will, trust, or power of attorney, the formalities and requirements often differ from state to state. A generic form provides no benefit if the document does not comply with the law of your state.

Higher Risk of Legal Disputes: An important objective of most estate plans involves making your intentions clear while mitigating the need for probate or other court proceedings. If you do not have a legal expert preparing your plan and documents, the risk of a mistake that leads to disputes and litigation increases. When a will is contested or a trust is not prepared properly, surviving loved ones who depend on access to estate funds to continue paying the mortgage, college tuition, and household expenses often face costly delays, mounting litigation costs, and unnecessary frustration.

When you have estate planning questions, a proven estate planning lawyer can help you avoid costly mistakes. Whether you have concerns about legacy succession, protection of your estate assets, advance medical directives, long-term medical care, business succession, incapacity planning, or other estate planning or probate issues, we invite you to call 408.379.9600 or send an online message using the form on this website to arrange a consultation with Linda J. MacKay.