US News & World Report’s recent article entitled “6 Common Myths About Estate Planning” explains that the coronavirus pandemic has propelled many people towards making decisions about their estate planning. Many will use a do-it-yourself estate planning solution as internet DIY websites make it easy to download forms. It has been Beck & Lenox’s experience with clients, even those with small estates, that if you “don’t know what you don’t know”, mistakes are made.
Here are some issues with do-it-yourself that estate planning attorneys regularly see:
You need to know what to ask. If you’re trying to complete a specific form, you may be able to do it on your own. However, the challenge is sometimes not knowing what to ask. If you want a more comprehensive end-of-life plan and aren’t sure about what you need in addition to a will, work with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you want to cover everything, and are not sure what everything is, that’s why you see them.
More complex issues require professional help. Take a more holistic look at your estate plan and look at estate planning, tax planning and financial planning together, since they’re all interrelated. If you only look at one of these areas at a time, you may create complications in another. This could unintentionally increase your expenses or taxes. Your situation might also include special issues or circumstances. A do-it-yourself website might not be able to tell you how to account for your specific situation in the best possible way. It will just give you a blanket list, and it will all be cookie cutter. You won’t have the individual attention to your goals and priorities you get by sitting down and talking to an experienced estate planning attorney.
Estate laws vary from state to state. Every state may have different rules for estate planning, such as for powers of attorney or a health care proxy. There are also 17 states and the District of Columbia that tax your estate, inheritance, or both. These tax laws can impact your estate planning. Eleven states and DC only have an estate tax (CT, HI, IL, ME, MA, MN, NY, OR, RI, VT and WA). Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have only an inheritance tax. Maryland has both an inheritance tax and an estate tax.
Should I try Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning? Well, setting up health care directives and making end-of-life decisions can be very involved. It’s too important to try to do it yourself. If you make a mistake, it could impact the ability of your family to take care of financial expenses or manage health care issues. The majority of estate planning attorneys, including Beck & Lenox, recommends you Do-Not-Do-It-Yourself.
Reference: US News & World Report (July 5, 2021) “6 Common Myths About Estate Planning”
Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Inheritance Tax, Probate Attorney, Estate Tax, Health Care Directive, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxy