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A rational person would not consult WebMD to learn how to treat a serious illness. You might use it as a source of reference, but if you are in pain or want to prevent health issues, you consult to a doctor.
The same is true when planning your estate. You may save a couple dollars by creating your own estate plan, but you are going to cost your loved ones ten times that with the expense of going to court, and by hiring an attorney to interpret and administer the errors in the DIY estate plan you created.
Writing your own will is penny wise and pound foolish.
Frederick wanted to save money. He wrote his own will and had two people witness it. He did not have a spouse or any children, and he had three half-brothers. He left numerous assets to friends and family, but he failed to include a residuary clause.
Frederick’s “Last Will and Testament” met all the statutory requirements, and therefore had to be probated. Unfortunately, some of the beneficiaries were no longer living and some of the assets mentioned in the will no longer existed at the time of Frederick’s death.
The court transferred the Will and Probate Petition from law clerk to law clerk because of the inherent issues contained in the self-drafted “Will.” It took almost two years to probate the “Will.” Frederick thought he had saved money by taking the DIY approach, but when all was said and done his actions (or inactions) cost his family three times as much. What’s worse is that the people that he wanted to receive his assets received significantly less than what he intended for them.
Not everyone has the same abilities and skills.
If you are not a doctor, you should not diagnose and treat your own medical conditions. If you are not a mechanic, you should not attempt to replace the transmission in your car.
The same rationale should be followed when it comes to estate planning. Unfortunately, people often visit websites like LegalZoom.com and try to create their own Will or Revocable Trust. The documents on these websites are generic and oftentimes do not comply with the specific laws of New York, let alone accomplish the specific goals of the individual. These documents are ambiguous, and whether they will admit it or not, the courts often do not know how to interpret them.
What does it cost to create an estate plan?
Every situation is different. The type of estate plan you need drives the cost. Simple, straightforward estate plans should be at the lower end of the spectrum, whereas sophisticated estate plans that include complicated Medicaid asset protection strategies and/or estate tax-saving strategies cost more.
The price of creating your own Last Will and Testament actually pales in comparison to the havoc people create by not having a Will or attempting to draft their own. An experienced attorney can tell you based on your goals, assets, and family situation, how complicated or straightforward your estate plan will be. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to your estate plan, because in reality there’s no app for that!
What steps will you take to ensure your estate will be distributed without unnecessary strain and additional costs to your loved ones?
Eric J. Einhart
Russo Law Group, P.C.
100 Quentin Roosevelt Blvd., Suite 102
Garden City, NY 11530