The Pitfalls of Do It Yourself Estate Planning

During a 2013 Northwestern Mutual webcast, one-third of those watching indicated that they have either drafted their own estate plan, or know someone who drafted their own estate plan. Whether these do-it-yourself estate plans are created through online programs or drafted by hand, a recent article explains that they can quickly become problematic.

A simple Google search will lead the interested consumer to dozens of Web sites that purport to create your estate plan simply and at a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney. Most commonly, these Web sites offer wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents. Although these documents are typically more affordable than hiring an attorney, they are inherently fraught with risk.

As director of advanced planning at Northwestern Mutual, Ruthann Driscoll explains, “Estate planning documents are filled with legalese; terms that mean very specific things under the law . . . A friend of mine mistakenly disinherited her sons because she didn’t understand one legal phrase that appeared in her will. That’s why do-it-yourself estate planning scares me.”

Typically, do-it-yourself wills become problematic after the death of the creator. When a mistake is discovered in a deceased person’s will, the time and money it will take to remedy the error often pales in comparison to the cost of hiring an attorney the first time.