Estate planning is one area of law where people often assume they do not require professional help. After all, estate planning is not an adversarial process like responding to a lawsuit or criminal charges. Additionally, the internet has a huge array of downloadable documents ready to go.
People often think that they can simply plug their personal details into a basic form they found online and then forget about estate planning indefinitely. Creating your own estate planning documents may not be as clever of a move as it seems at first. Many people would benefit instead from working with an attorney during the estate planning process.
What are the benefits of bringing in professional legal help?
You better comply with state law
Perhaps you have a terrible relationship with your spouse, but your religion forbids divorce. Left to your own devices, you might seek to disinherit your spouse as a way to punish them for their misconduct during your marriage.
Unfortunately, such moves would likely invalidate your will and lead to challenges and probate court. Spouses have a statutory right of inheritance that basic estate planning documents cannot completely eliminate. There are many other state laws that you need to understand to create enforceable documents. Attorneys can advise you on how to comply with state law while achieving your goals.
You can create more thorough protections
Simply plugging in a few personal details after downloading a boilerplate will could mean that you have very basic and ineffective estate documents. Attorneys can help you achieve your exact goals by creating an assortment of different documents, ranging from powers of attorney and advance medical directives to trusts and wills. The right combination of documents will give you more thorough protection now and will make probate much simpler for your loved ones later.
You create formal records of the estate planning process
Your loved ones could challenge your downloaded documents by claiming they were fraudulent or that you lacked the mental capacity to draft documents at the time that you created them. When you work with an attorney to create your estate plan, you have a witness who can attest to your presence and your cognitive capacity. The lawyer that you work with can also potentially help guide the estate administration process, removing a lot of the confusion and conflict that might otherwise occur.
Having the right support when you create your estate plan will reduce the stress and risk of failure in this important process.