The Pitfalls of DIY Estate Planning


In many aspects of life, the do-it-yourself impulse is commendable. Sewing a quilt for your bedroom, making your own furniture from recycled materials, and canning fresh veggies from your garden are all wonderful ways to spend your free time and save resources. When it comes to estate planning, however, it's best to seek out the assistance of a professional.

The main problem with DIY estate planning is that online resources only offer simple templates. If you have any special circumstances, for example, if you own your own business, have children from a past marriage and/or a child with special needs, or are committed to supporting a favorite charity, estate planning becomes more complicated. Meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney lets you develop a personalized plan that effectively distributes your assets while minimizing your tax burden.

Speaking of taxes, it's worth noting that estate tax laws are constantly changing. When you use an online template, you have no way of knowing whether it was drafted in compliance with current law, or whether it takes into account the legal nuances of your state; if it doesn't, you can wind up paying thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes. If you're like most Americans, you'd probably prefer to leave your assets to your family and friends, instead of donating them to Uncle Sam!

Finally, a DIY will may not hold up in court if it is contested by your heirs. If you plan to distribute your assets equally, this should be an important consideration. There are several excellent reasons to support an unequal distribution of assets, such as rewarding an adult child who provided extensive elder care or taking into consideration an income gap between a lower-earning adult child with dependents to care for and his or her more affluent sibling who is both single and childless. No matter what your reasoning is, there's no guarantee that your heirs will respect your decision after you have passed.

How Can We Help?

If you are in need of legal representation relating to an estate planning issue, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our attorneys are happy to meet with you to discuss your concerns and develop a customized estate plan that will best meet your needs.