The Hidden Dangers of DIY Estate Plans in NY

diy estate planning

Have you ever gone to Google and typed “how to create an estate plan” into the search bar? The results were most likely a long list of websites and online platforms offering “Do It Yourself” solutions. Some of these DIY sites probably offered what seemed like surprisingly low fees and a process you could complete while watching your favorite TV show.

You know you need a New York estate plan, so it might be tempting to enter your email address and credit card number and just get it over with. But DIY estate plans cut corners and pose some serious (but often unseen) risks. Today, we’re going to delve into why going the DIY route for your estate plan might not be a wise decision.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

First things first: estate planning involves so much more than just scribbling down who gets your grandma’s heirloom jewelry when you’re gone. A will is an important document in your estate plan, but it’s only one of the important documents.

But even if you decided to create a will and stop there, doing so still involves complex tax considerations and legal requirements that the average person typically doesn’t know much about.

Making small mistakes during the creation of your estate plan can lead to significant problems down the line, and even if you’re very careful and follow the DIY instructions to the letter, there’s a high chance you’ll miss something. Plus, no DIY process will take your personal family dynamics into consideration, and doing so is a big part of estate planning.

Legal Language is Tricky

Do you know what “per stirpes” means? How about what distinguishes a “revocable” trust from an irrevocable trust? You’ve likely heard of “power of attorney,” but do you know the different types? These are not just fancy terms–they carry significant legal weight.

One wrong word or an out-of-place comma could change the entire meaning of a clause and open up a world of disagreements, contention, and expensive legal action for you and for your loved ones after you pass. There’s no reason to expect yourself to become a legal expert overnight, and using a DIY estate planning platform won’t close that gap either. Frankly, it’s just too risky to navigate these waters without professional guidance.

Changes in Estate Planning Law

Laws change—often. What might have been a solid plan two years ago could be outdated today. If you read the fine print on many of the websites that offer DIY estate plans, you’ll see that they don’t guarantee all the rules and terms are up to date. In contrast, professional estate planners stay informed about changes in law, which means they can ensure your estate plan is prepared correctly the first time and remains compliant and effective.

DIY Software Can’t Replace Human Judgment

There are plenty of DIY software options out there that promise you a “fool-proof” estate plan. But let’s be real—technology is no substitute for human judgment. No matter how sophisticated the software is or how much A.I. is baked in, there’s no way an online form can sufficiently assess your personal needs and situation or offer you tailored advice.

It certainly can’t predict or account for your family’s unique circumstances. Only an experienced professional who asks the right questions and really listens to the answers can be trusted to guide you through the process.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

Every family is different, so there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all estate plan, and no matter what a website says, that’s the best they can offer. Maybe you have a special needs child, or you own property in multiple states. Perhaps you’re part of a blended family or have unique health or financial concerns. These are the kinds of things DIY solutions typically can’t account for, and again, making a mistake at the beginning of the process can be very problematic in the future, so it’s smart to bring in a compassionate and informed legal professional to help.

What You Can Do Instead

I get it: taking the DIY route probably sounds quick, cheap, and easy. When you think of hiring a professional, you might assume it will be expensive, and the process will be long, drawn out, and force you to talk about some difficult and private things.

But trust me–when it comes to your legacy and peace of mind, it’s worth every penny to work alongside a caring and reliable legal advisor who will get to know you and your goals and help you make the best decisions for you and your family. A proper estate plan can save you and your loved ones time, money, and heartache in the long run.

And if you’re concerned about cost, consider this: if you work with an attorney who offers different packages and payment options, you’ll likely be able to find something that will work for you. And remember, you don’t have to complete your entire estate plan all at once. Based on your specific situation, a legal professional can give you valuable advice about which parts of your estate plan to prioritize and which can wait a little longer. When you pay for an estate plan, you’re not just paying for a stack of papers (unless you go the DIY route!)…you’re investing in a secure future for yourself and those you care about.

The Bottom Line

So, there you have it! If you’re looking to create an estate plan, let’s do it right. The risks involved in DIY estate plans are just too significant to overlook. It’s not just about the now; it’s about securing peace of mind for years to come. You’ve worked hard to build your legacy, so let’s make sure it stands the test of time.

If you’re ready to explore your options for creating an estate plan with a trusted legal advisor at The Browne Firm, please contact us to book a free initial consultation.

Author Bio

Danielle Browne is the founder and managing attorney of The Browne Firm, a New York-based estate planning and business law firm. Danielle leverages her background, serving as general counsel for a Fortune 500 company and working with startups to represent clients in entity formation, intellectual property protection, contract drafting, estate planning, and more.

With more than ten years of experience as an attorney and business executive, she has represented clients ranging from entrepreneurs and small businesses to artists and Fortune 500 companies. Danielle received her Juris Doctor cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law and is licensed to practice in New York. She has received numerous honors for her work, including being named a 2015 Future Leader by the WNBA President while serving as general counsel for the Atlanta Dream.

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