Do you need to do estate planning? Many Americans lack a cohesive plan for both their end-of-life care and what happens to their assets when they pass away. But attempting to rectify this situation cheaply by doing DIY estate planning on their own may not solve the problem. In fact, it could make things even worse.

How is this possible? Here are five of the many reasons to avoid estate planning without professional legal help.

1. You May Miss Important Wording

For your will or other documents to be useful, they must be legally valid. But what makes a will legally valid? The answer varies by state, and few ordinary citizens are aware of all the complexities they have to think of.

For example, one method of handling the possibility of a beneficiary pre-deceasing you is to divide assets among heirs either ‘per capita’ or ‘per stirpes’. These Latin terms can have significantly different results, but few people are familiar with them. In fact, most DIY wills would leave out this step, possibly resulting in a judge instead distributing assets per state rules after the testator passes away.

2. Everyone Needs Documents Reviewed

Mistakes and accidents happen, particularly when one is not used to preparing legal documents. It’s very easy to transpose a number, misspell a word, get an account number incorrect, or leave out items from lists. Things get even more challenging when you are writing not just one document, such as a will, but multiple documents and sets of instructions.

An attorney will look over your paperwork and overall plan with a practiced eye. They not only know what common errors to look for but will also be more likely to question assumptions (such as the use of an heir’s legal name rather than a nickname).

3. Estate Planning Isn’t Just One Thing

Estate planning is a catch-all term that actually involves many elements. It may begin with a will, but it generally also includes several different end-of-life documents. You may want to use both revocable and irrevocable trusts. The executor may need assistance managing certain assets (like a business). There is tax planning involved. And you might need multiple powers of attorney with limited scopes.

Attorneys who work with estate plans are trained in all these areas. They will help you ensure you don’t miss any important pieces of the puzzle and that you know how to keep them all updated.

4. You May Not Know Your Options

Most Americans aren’t fully aware of all their options when it comes to planning for their estate. For example, a trust can be an important way to protect your estate plan’s privacy and to protect your finances. But few people likely understand how to create, use, and manage a trust so as to avoid trouble — including unwanted taxation and personal liability. To utilize this tool, you should have an experienced pro.

5. Attorneys Can Solidify Your Plans

You likely have some idea of what you want to accomplish with your estate plan. For example, a parent may want to provide for their adult children.

However, turning that goal into actionable steps can seem overwhelming. How will you divide your assets? Will you use a fair or an equitable plan? Do any heirs need help with money management? How will you account for differing tax effects on assets? Taking your overall goals and digging into the details of how to make them happen is the job of a skilled estate lawyer.

Where to Start

Clearly, this legal matter is important enough to call for professional assistance. Washington state residents have relied on Campbell Barnett for nearly 90 years. Stop by or call today to learn how we can help you get your estate planning done as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.