Mistakes are always more likely when you’re doing something yourself as opposed to hiring a professional. Professionals have the benefit of years of education and first-hand experience. As a novice, you may not be aware that you’ve made a critical mistake until it’s too late. Here are some common mistakes made in DIY estate plans.
1 – Missing Special Handling of Assets
Not all estate planning matters or assets are simple and straightforward. Some require special handling beforehand. Jointly held real estate, assets with designated beneficiaries, digital/virtual assets, and funeral arrangements are a few examples. You can read more about these in our blog.
2 – Not Optimizing Tax Savings
Maximizing your assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries may be one of your estate planning goals. One way to achieve that is to take advantage of tax laws. Federal and state laws and taxation thresholds vary, so it’s important to be aware of those and how they may change from year to year. Additionally, there are different ways of structuring your estate, each with different tax implications. Understanding all of this can help you select the best approach to your estate plan. DIY estate planning forms are unlikely to include the language and formulas necessary to be tax efficient.
3 – Leaving Out Critical Clauses
Some clauses are so critical to estate plans that leaving them out can be costly and result in unintended heirs inheriting your estate. A recent court case in the Florida Supreme Court highlights this perfectly. In Aldrich v. Basile, a missing residuary clause allowed family members not listed in the will to benefit from a decedent’s estate. Read our blog post on this case to learn more.
2 – Unintended Heirs
Unintended heirs inheriting an estate is one of the most prevalent consequences resulting from a mistake in a DIY estate plan. An estate plan that is incomplete or not correctly prepared can allow unintended heirs to make claims against your estate. This can be detrimental to the beneficiaries that you actually intended to support after your death.
4 – Execution Mistakes
Last, but certainly not least, are mistakes in the execution of your estate plan. Improper signatures, witnesses, and other issues can make your estate plan difficult to enforce. All of your time and energy spent on preparing an estate plan may do little to actually protect your estate when the paperwork is not executed according to legal standards.
Other Common Estate Planning DIY Mistakes
These are just a few common mistakes seen in DIY estate plans. There are actually countless mistakes that can be made when something as legally complex and important as estate planning is done without the expertise of legal counsel. Don’t put your estate at risk. Hire a Massachusetts estate planning attorney to assist with your estate plan.