With the Internet, it is becoming easier to find a form and create estate planning documents yourself. However, there are pitfalls to do this. The pitfalls happen because individuals do not know what they do not know. The do-it-yourself (DIY) solution for estate planning is often causes loved family members issues that cannot be correct.
One of the biggest issues that I have seen is when individuals use a friend’s documents as a template. The other person may have had an attorney draft the documents. The unseen problem is that the documents were drafted specifically for the friend’s unique circumstances and planning strategies. While there main be some common language, the documents may not be so easily modified if the two individuals have different estate planning strategies. A simple will can be drafted from a template that contains many variations that be eliminated if they do not fit the client’s needs. The eliminated language may be what the copying individual needs and does not know exists.
At Michigan Gun Law, we have seen what happens when an estate plan is pulled from the Internet. This trust plan was written for individuals residing in another state with some different laws and provisions than Michigan. When the individual became incapacitated, the family had to spend more money to attempt the fix the problems encountered by financial institutions refusing to accept the estate planning documents. The increased cost in finding remedies to the problems is greater than the cost of drafting the trust plan with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Another problem that we have seen is that the estate plans become stale. Estate planning is not a one-time process. An experienced estate planning attorney should be reaching out to former clients on a regular basis to ensure that the life changes have not rendered the drafted estate plan stale or no longer valid. Life is constantly changing and so should estate plans. You cannot sustain the peace of mind by drafting the estate plan once and then placing it in the safe deposit box until it is needed.
A third problem is the lack of funding the trust. If you have pulled templates from the Internet or borrowed from friends, you are not educated on the importance of funding trusts or how to fund trusts. This is the critical that a trust be funded properly to avoid probate upon death. If assets have not been transferred to the trust’s legal ownership, then a probate proceeding is required to transfer the assets. The peace of mind from properly drafting and maintaining an estate plan is the result of finding the attorney with experience in estate planning to develop a lifelong relationship. This should be an attorney; whose firm has an established practice of reaching out to clients and modifying documents. At Michigan Gun Law, the entire team cares about our clients and their families. We rejoice with our client’s happy events and mourn beside our clients when the sadness comes. If you want a lifelong estate planning attorney, contact us to schedule your pre-engagement meeting with our team.