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Is do-it-yourself estate planning good enough?

Many people who certainly know that they need an estate plan nonetheless do not have one in place. When asked, a common response is that they’ll do it later. Some people mention that all they need to do is download a blank form online and fill it out. How hard can it be? They seem confident that do-it-yourself options will get the job done. Is this true?

A common estate planning myth

This is actually one of the more common estate planning myths. Yes, online options may exist. But here’s the problem: Your entire estate depends on it. One mistake could ruin everything you’re trying to accomplish.

For instance, estate planning laws differ from state to state. You may mean to download a form that works in Minnesota, but what if it’s outdated? What if it is a form for another state, from New York to Michigan to California? What if it’s not even a valid form at all, but just an example of what a form may look like?

It’s not always easy to determine exactly what you’re getting online. You could fill everything out correctly and still have an estate plan that is not — and never was –valid. Your family winds up with essentially no plan at all.

Plus, you’re not going to find out about this in time to correct it. Many estate planning mistakes only come to light after the person who did the planning passes away. Your family is going to discover that those online forms did not do enough or didn’t actually work in the current legal system, but it’s then too late for you to correct the errors. They have to sort it out, and that can cost them a lot of time and money.

You need a plan that works

What you need is a plan that works, a plan you can trust, and a plan that will actually accomplish your goals. You have to put your family first, and that means drafting a valid plan that not only holds up legally, but that goes beyond the cookie-cutter online options. For your unique needs, find out exactly what steps you actually need to take.