Don’t Let Time Be Your Enemy

By: Pile Law Firm, PLLC

DIY Estate Planning Pitfalls: The Risks of Creating Your Own Documents in Pennsylvania

Latest News

What Are Some Basics About an Estate Plan I Should Know?

You may realize that you need an estate plan and feel yours is simple enough that you could attempt it yourself. However, this is a dire mistake. In the end, if you make mistakes or leave out critical information, attempting to do it yourself could cost you more or be ineffective.

A properly drafted estate plan involves intricate legal documentation with nuances unfamiliar to most individuals; and if not done right they can directly affect your finances, taxes, and more.  Often, “DIY” estate plans leave vital information out and, when needed, don’t perform as you wanted them to.

This is one of the main reasons that getting skilled, professional, and thorough professional help from a knowledgeable estate planning attorney always makes sense.

After all, if you die or become incapacitated, these documents will ensure the future of your business, the finances of your family, and the security of their future. If mistakes exist, your estate plan may not be able to withstand legal scrutiny or hold up in court.

Understanding an estate plan involves recognizing that it’s more than just a singular document. Instead, it represents a comprehensive vision detailing the desired distribution of your finances, assets, and business following your passing. This plan encompasses various documents crafted to establish a legally sound framework, ensuring your intentions are honored and enabling their lawful implementation.

All the documents in your estate plan require professional knowledge to get it right. There are many legal rules to follow, which often vary based on the state in which you reside. If you aren’t familiar with all the documents, rules and regulations and you don’t fully understand what you’re doing, then there is a good chance you’ll make mistakes and your family will have a tough time sorting things out after you’re gone.

But Don’t Most “DIY” Estate Plans Cover All the Bases?

If you’re considering an estate plan, you probably feel that a Will is one of the primary documents you will need. Yes, some Wills may be reasonably straightforward, but most are intricately tied to your individual circumstances and change as your life changes, such as having a child, inheriting property, starting a business, and more. You may also believe that a Will is the only document you need, but this is rarely true.

Lots of websites give easy steps to create your Will, but they often miss important legal details. They might not ask all the specific questions about your family, money, business, and other important things.

When you write a Will now, it might be good for your life today, but what about in 5, 10, or 25 years? A Will is super important when you pass away. To keep it working right and legally strong in the future, it needs regular updates and checks by a professional.

No matter how they try, “DIY” Wills can never accommodate changes in your future life, family relationships, or business growth. So, as the future unfolds and your life and finances change, your Will should also change.

State laws also change, and if your Will is not professionally drafted to conform with changes in Pennsylvania laws, the document could become ineffective or even legally invalid.

Remember, a Will is just one piece of your estate plan—there are more documents you might need. Keeping your plan up-to-date is tough. But with a caring and skilled Blue Bell estate planning attorney, you can dodge big problems and make sure your plan works as you want when you’re gone. Doing it right from the start is often quicker and cheaper in the long run.

Are “DIY” Estate Plans Always Legal in Pennsylvania?

This is a difficult question and depends on your specific needs and the depth of your estate plan. The simple answer is sometimes they are, but sometimes, they might not be considered legally valid.

Nothing is inherently illegal about most DIY estate planning documents. However, the legal formalities of drafting and signing your estate planning documents are often as critical as what is in them.

Each state, including Pennsylvania, has precise legal requirements to be followed when you draft and formally execute your will, trust, health care directive, power of attorney, and more. Accordingly, if these requirements are not followed to the letter of the law, then your Will and other vital estate planning documents may be invalid.

These drafting and signing requirements vary from state to state, and these subtle differences may not be apparent on these “cookie cutter” forms.

It’s important to understand that while your estate plan might resemble others, no two plans should be completely identical. By getting the professional advice and guidance of a thorough Blue Bell estate planning lawyer, you can be assured that your plan fits your specific needs and wishes and is done correctly and legally. These documents are too valuable to allow for any omissions or errors.

Are There Possible “Traps” in DIY Estate Planning That Affect My Estate Plan?

Yes, many questions and forms could contain possible “traps” if not answered or executed correctly.

Consider this scenario: suppose you need to alter these self-made papers after they’ve been signed and completed. If you make changes by crossing things out or adding new details without proper guidance, you might end up invalidating the entire document.

All changes to your documents must be done under the same signing rules and regulations as the original document.

Also, many assets such as IRAs, annuities, and life insurance policies are not subject to the terms of a will or trust, but in some instances, they may be. Consequently, assuming that your self-made Will or trust determines the fate of all your assets upon your passing could lead to a tragic misunderstanding.

These are only a few of the pitfalls that may occur, but by seeking proper legal assistance, you can be confident that your wishes will be upheld and legally honored.

I Am Considering a DIY Estate Plan; How Can I Get Proper Legal Guidance?

Your individual estate plan guarantees your specific desires are respected, safeguarding your family, assets, and business after your passing. While DIY estate plans are an option, there’s a risk that when these documents are needed most, they might not work. Estate plans require many legal documents, and the possibility of mistakes or omissions could be costly.

The best approach is to consult with a caring and experienced estate planning lawyer who will take the time and effort to ensure, without doubt, that your plan will be executed legally and correctly when needed.

Pile Law Firm is skilled and experienced, cares about your wishes, and will personally guide you through the entire complex estate planning process. Call us today at (267) 281-1675 for a free case evaluation, and we will draft a unique plan that works for you and protects your family.