When people ask me if they can do their own estate planning, my simple answer is “yes.” There are many wills probated that were prepared by the decedent without professional assistance. Many of these wills are submitted to the court and the estate is administered without problem.
Additionally, there are many trusts prepared without professional assistance. Although the degree of error is often higher with the use of a trust, these can also be prepared and administered without professional assistance and without problems. However, there is also a large portion of these documents (both wills and trusts prepared without professional assistance) that do have problems. Often, when there are problems, the problems are significant.
I like to compare estate planning to having a baby. Can someone deliver a baby without a trained and experienced professional? The answer is yes. It was done that way for hundreds and thousands of years. However, is there less likelihood of having serious problems if someone with more training and experience is involved in the process? Again, I believe most would agree that the answer is yes.
Like most undertakings, the more training and experience one has planning an estate the greater likelihood that serious complications can be avoided.
In deciding whether to do your own estate planning without professional assistance, I believe the question to be asked is how much time are you willing to devote to understanding the process and how much risk are you comfortable taking regarding the disposition of your estate.
In writing this article as a professional involved in estate planning, it is not my desire to “create” work for estate planners. Improper estate planning resulting in complications generates much more work and legal fees than proper estate planning and a subsequent, smooth estate administration.
It may be that estate planning can be compared to preventive mechanics. You can pay for the tune ups and oil changes now or you can pay more for the repairs later. However, a significant difference is that it is not you but rather your heirs that pay