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A Palm Beach County Estate Planning Attorney Explains Why You Should Not Do Your Estate Planning Online

June 10, 2022 Estate Planning

You can create your own estate planning documents independent of a lawyer, but that does not mean you should. In the same way you could build your home independent of a contractor, or self-diagnose your vehicle’s braking issues without a mechanic, there is a DIY option for estate planning, but be wary. Pre-drafted forms found on the internet are typically a one-size-fits-all solution for important legal concerns that are anything but uniform. 

Faulty or inaccurate estate planning documents, such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, living wills, etc. can result in your assets going to the wrong people, or lead to a lengthy and expensive probate experience. In matters concerning the law – and your wealth and loved ones – consulting with a professional and experienced Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning attorney is the surest action.

Beware of These DIY Estate Planning Documents

There are a few primary ways that people try to create estate plans without the benefit of a Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning attorney. Some of these include:

Holographic Wills

A “holographic will” is an unattested will in the testator’s own handwriting. These are notoriously problematic, and stories abound about wealthy people becoming temporarily angry with a beneficiary, writing them out of the will, and then writing out a retraction after their anger has passed. There may also be questions about such will’s authenticity, the order in which they were created, and the mental state of the testator at the time the alleged will was written. Most importantly, Florida law does not recognize holographic wills, even if they were properly executed under another state or country’s laws. 

Fill-in-the-Blank Internet Forms

It is easy to find relatively inexpensive internet forms for all types of estate planning documents; these digital forms ask you to fill in blanks, such as your full legal name, address, name of beneficiaries, etc. Not only do these forms pose safety and privacy concerns, but they are intended to be a one-size-fits all solution for matters that are inherently unique from person to person.

Online Document Generators

Online document generators ask a list of pre-set questions to develop a document (typically a PDF) that you download after completing the questionnaire. Online document generators may have functionality where one question “pops up” after another. Similar to fill-in-the-blank internet forms, online document generators are generic and very basic. It is likely they will not address the full scope of your estate planning needs. 

Why You Should Reconsider Online DIY Estate Planning Forms 

Online estate planning documents may appeal to the masses because they are quick (often instant) and low cost, but when you weigh those “benefits” against some of the most common reasons online estate planning forms are a bad idea, it becomes obvious that some tasks are best left to professionals.

Assets may be left out of your estate plan. 

A DIY estate plan may be incomplete, inaccurate, sloppy, or even contradictory. It is also possible it does not fully account for all of your assets, like out-of-state properties, for example. In addition, a professional can advise what tools are best for your needs. An automatic program cannot offer the same logic. 

Your DIY estate plan likely does not account for changing life circumstances. 

Life is constantly changing – people get married, babies are born – and changing circumstances often requires your estate documents to be updated. In fact, for every change of significance in one’s life it is best to use that as an opportunity to revisit your estate planning documents with your estate planning attorney to ensure the plan is most appropriate in light of that change.  DIY forms simply do not account for estate changes that accompany life changes.

It is easy to make mistakes due to lack of knowledge on Florida laws, deadlines and codes.

There is no check and balance in place when you use an automatic form. Mistakes made on DIY estate documents will not likely be discovered until the document is needed. An experienced Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning attorney at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun works as a team. Simple mistakes can have serious consequences, and a professional will ensure all of the necessary details have been accounted for in your estate planning portfolio. 

DIY estate plans may not be enforceable. 

Internet forms may claim to conform to your state’s law, but this may not always be the case. State estate planning laws vary from state to state, sometimes in a significant fashion. Additionally, if you happen to own property in another state or country, it is likely that the laws in the two jurisdictions are different. Your DIY estate plan will likely fail to properly account for them.

They do not account for circumstances that impact blended families. 

Estate planning works differently for blended families, and it should come as no surprise that the more complicated your estate situation is, the better off you will be to consult a Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning attorney at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun. Estate plan mistakes will almost certainly cause problems and hard feelings between your beneficiaries.

Let a Florida and Palm Beach County Estate Planning Attorney at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun Can Bring You the Peace of Mind of a Comprehensive Estate Plan

Internet forms may be tempting because of the cost and the convenience. However, no form can set your mind at ease like one carefully thought out and drafted by a Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning lawyer at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun. Contact us today for your initial consultation.

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