Leave it to the Professionals: Understanding the Risks Inherent in a DIY Estate Plan

Thanks to the Internet, DIY estate planning has never been easier, or cheaper. Information is abundant online, forms practically fill themselves out, and you save money on advisor’s fees. It sounds great, but there could be a cloud lurking behind that silver lining.

While it is technically possible to “do it yourself,” there are real risks involved when you arrange the distribution of your hard-earned wealth without professional guidance. Lack of experience or familiarity with Maryland estate law can result in mistakes that may not be apparent at the time but can have major financial consequences later.

Not All Estates Are Simple

DIY resources typically fail to take the needs of complex estates into account, such as:

  • Providing for children with special needs or those from a previous marriage
  • Capital gains resulting from property appreciation
  • Estates that are big enough to be subject to estate taxes

Additionally, DIY estate plans are template-driven and rarely sophisticated enough to account for your unique circumstances. Even if your estate is a relatively simple one, a single mistake when filling out the forms could invalidate the entire plan or create consequences that you never intended. The error might not come to light during your lifetime, but your loved ones could face years of hassle and litigation once your DIY plan comes into effect.

Estate Planning Laws Can and Do Change

Once written, laws do not remain static. New legislation and developments in case law result in amendments, repeals, and other changes, especially where estate taxes are concerned. DIY websites, estate planning software vendors, and other low-cost resources will never be as current as an estates and trusts attorney who has an obligation to keep track of the laws governing wills, trusts, estate taxes, and probate and apply them correctly.

Ask yourself this question: if you had no automotive experience, would you take apart your car and rebuild it using a web tutorial to guide you? Probably not, given the complexity involved and the dangerous risks of a mistake. The same premise applies to estate planning: DIY resources are too limited in scope to ensure that you’ve filled in all forms correctly, that any relevant tax and legal issues are addresses, or that your estate plan is in accordance with current laws.

If your ultimate goal is to create a valid plan that will take care of your loved ones after you’re gone and even address your own financial needs if you ever reach a point where you can no longer make your own decisions, your next move should be to contact an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney. That way, there will be no unpleasant surprises that come to light after you’re unable to do anything about them.

To learn more about creating a valid and effective Maryland estate plan, contact us today or call 410-296-6485.

Written by Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill

Jack R. Sturgill, the Owner and CEO of Jack’s Law, has practiced civil litigation for over 40 years. As an experienced litigator and real estate, estate planning, and estate administration law attorney in Maryland, he focuses his practice on legal matters pertaining to real estate, land use, eminent domain and condemnation, business and corporate law, estate planning, estate administration, personal injury, and administrative law.