The Dangers of DIY Estate Planning & How to Avoid a Contested Will
With more free information available online than ever before, more and more people are electing to write estate plans on their own. Before making that decision, it’s important to fully understand the risks associated with DIY estate plans.
A well-crafted estate plan ensures that your wishes are carried out and that you, your loved ones, and your estate are all taken care of in the way that you choose. But even the simplest estate plans are very complex from a legal standpoint, and mistakes are extremely common. An estate plan that isn’t well crafted (even one written with the best of intentions) often results in conflict for families. In some cases, it can even result in a contested Will.
Here’s what you need to know about the risks of DIY estate planning, how to avoid a contested Will, and what you can do to make sure you have complete control over the future of your estate.
The Risks of DIY Estate Planning
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning, so it’s unlikely that general advice online or free-to-download legal documents will meet your needs—especially if your needs are complex or unusual in any way. In fact, the more complicated your estate and financial situation are, the greater the dangers of DIY estate planning. The risks are also higher if you have a complicated family situation, or if there is anything unusual about your estate or your lifestyle.
Risks associated with DIY estate planning include the following:
- If your Will contains a mistake or isn’t executed properly, it may be ruled invalid.
- It is possible to inadvertently give someone too much power over you and your estate, which could be risky in the event that you become incapacitated.
- Failing to plan for unexpected events (such as the death, divorce, or birth of loved ones) can result in unintended consequences when it comes time to settle your estate.
- The legal terminology in most estate planning documents can be difficult to decipher for anyone who doesn’t have a legal background.
- Estate taxes are incredibly complex and they can change from year to year.
How to Avoid a Contested Will
What invalidates a Will? For your Will or trust to be valid, it must first and foremost meet all of the legal requirements for a Will or trust in your state. For example, Oregon requires Wills to have two witness signatures. Let’s say you live in Oregon and your Will only has one. In this case, if someone decides to contest your Will, a judge could invalidate it.
Wills can be invalidated for many other reasons too, including if there is evidence that you did not act of your own volition when you signed your Will. Essentially, this can happen when there is evidence that someone used manipulation, lies, or force to influence the contents of your Will or to get you to sign.
The best way to avoid a contested Will is to work closely with an experienced estate planning attorney who has a thorough understanding of the relevant laws and best practices in your state.
What about Trusts?
Revocable trusts are an extremely common alternative to Wills. In fact, many people find that a trust meets their needs much better than a Will. There are many reasons people often choose trusts over Wills, but the key differences are that trusts allow you to avoid the expensive (and often lengthy) process of probate, and trusts allow you to plan for incapacity. It’s also important to know that trusts are more complicated than Wills, and they require more expertise to set up.
Make sure you’re in control of your estate plan with the help of a knowledgeable attorney.
The experienced estate planning attorneys at Gevurtz Menashe can help you understand all your options and help you create a Will or trust that will protect you, your loved ones, and your estate far into the future. To schedule a consultation, call our Portland offices at 503-227-1515, our Vancouver offices at 360-823-0410, or contact us online.