Why Hire an Attorney to Draft Your Will, Trust or Other Documents?
Your Last Will and Testament, your Revocable Living Trust and your medical and financial Powers of Attorney are legal documents. A Will directs who your property will pass to when you die. A trust is also a legal document created during life or as part of your Will, whereby an individual transfers ownership of property to a trust which is managed by an individual or trustee for the benefit of another. The document specifies the purpose of the trust along with the terms and conditions by which the assets are to be managed and ultimately distributed to the beneficiaries. The legal requirements for drafting a Will or a Trust are relatively simple yet mistakes can potentially invalidate the Will or Trust entirely.
Do-it-yourself products (including powers of attorney) are not likely to entirely meet a person’s needs unless those needs are extremely simple. It is recommended you have an attorney experienced in estate planning guide you through and clarify the process, answer any questions and prevent any potential problems.
An experienced estate planning or elder law attorney can also assist with determining your needs. A lawyer can determine if your estate is taxable under state or federal law, review any significant amounts of tax-deferred retirement plans, and determine if there is anything about your estate that is unusual, such as ownership of out-of-state property, having children from a previous marriage or a disabled child.
The job of an attorney at law is not to produce forms but to educate, inform and counsel our clients.
Reasons to utilize an attorney when drafting a Will or a Trust.
- Complex State Laws: State laws are particular about what may or may not be included in estate planning documents, including who may serve as Personal Representative, who may be a witness, where and how the witness needs to sign, what rules and procedures must be followed when signing estate planning documents.
- Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning Documents: Do-it-yourself documents can fail for the following reasons:
- They are only effective for very simple estates with no complex issues
- They don’t handle complexities well.
- They can become invalid if you make a mistake. Fixing a mistake can be very expensive.
- You receive no legal advice
- They don’t address each individual’s unique circumstances
- They don’t always reflect the most recent changes in estate planning laws
- They do not provide for contingencies
- They often do not handle guardianship of children
- They do not address tax situations
- Complications: The following complications can affect the drafting of your Will:
- You have had multiple marriages
- You own a business
- You own real estate in multiple states
- You have an incapacitated or disabled loved one that has special needs
- You have minor children from a single or multiple marriages
- You want to bequeath some or all of your estate to charity
- You have substantial invested assets and have very specific concerns as to how your savings will be handled when you die
- The Unknowns: It is likely that you do not know what your biggest concerns should be. Attorneys anticipate situations most of us assume will never happen. However, unexpected situations happen more often than we realize. A skilled and experienced attorney can counsel you based on your specific situation and related issues and advise you regarding matters that need to be considered.
- Continuing Support: Attempting to manage your own estate plan without legal representation could leave you abandoned and in the dark if you run into difficulties or have complex issues. Hiring a skilled and knowledgeable attorney can help you avoid problems down the road and will give you peace of mind.
NOTE: Don’t use do-it-yourself legal forms and risk having your estate planning documents rendered invalid due to errors. Cutting corners when it comes to estate planning can adversely affect your family and frustrate your intent to take care of them upon your death. Your attorney can review and discuss the purposes and objectives for your estate and assist you with making decisions that will benefit you and your family and loved ones. Signing a downloaded document from the internet does not provide you with a clear explanation of the power of that document or what it may or may not be used for.