Do-It-Yourself Wills & Estate Plans Are a Serious Mistake — Especially During Coronavirus (Covid-19) Uncertainties

Your will and other estate plan documents protect you and your family during your life and after you pass away. Your estate plan provides peace-of-mind about the legal protection you have put in place. However, using forms or an online do-it-yourself (DIY) service can defeat those important goals and have significant negative consequences for you and your loved ones.

Why is having an up-to-date estate plan more important than ever during the coronavirus (Covid-19)? Because no one is beyond the reach of the uncertainties of the virus, which include the risk of incapacity (temporary or permanent) and death for anyone who becomes infected. An estate plan created with assistance from an experienced estate planning attorney addresses the concerns about those possibilities.

During this challenging time, Peterson Law Offices shares all the concerns of every individual, family, and business. Attorney Shane Peterson continues to be available to help existing and new clients with legal concerns, including estate planning, to ensure that legal needs do not go unmet. We are providing consultations by phone and through virtual meetings to minimize the need for in-person office visits. Please reach out to us to schedule your free initial consultation.

What Can Go Wrong With Forms and DIY Wills & Estate Plans?

The documents in your estate plan should protect you and your family. Using forms or a do-it-yourself service for wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other estate plan documents creates a number of substantial risks. A DIY approach may leave you and your loved ones completely unprotected. Here are the three most significant dangers.

1. Your DIY will and estate plan may not accomplish your wishes and goals.

One of the worst possible outcomes of using do-it-yourself forms and services is that your estate plan does not accomplish what you think it does. Yet that can easily happen. Estate planning is a legal process that involves a number of different documents. There are many opportunities for choosing the wrong form or structure — or failing to include necessary documents — if you’re not an estate planning attorney.

Estate planning requires creating complex legal documents, each with a specific purpose. Your attorney discusses your personal, family, financial, and business circumstances with you in detail before determining the best way to accomplish your wishes and address your needs. Then, your lawyer creates the appropriate legal documents specifically to accomplish those goals. Every estate plan that an attorney creates is completely unique, because it is tailored to the specific circumstances of the individual client.

If you consider using a DIY service, read the disclaimers on the site. (You may have difficulty finding them, because they are often well-hidden.) The disclaimers will tell you that the site is not a lawyer or law firm, nor is it a substitute for consulting with a lawyer.

Online service disclaimers also clearly state that they are not giving you any legal advice or guidance on legal rights or form selection. The terms of use explain that your communications with the site are not protected by attorney-client privilege (your discussions with a licensed attorney are protected by privilege). You acknowledge and accept all the terms simply by using the site.

2. Your will and other documents might not be legally valid in Arizona — or they may have unintended consequences under Arizona laws.

Arizona laws impose strict legal requirements on each estate plan document, including your Last Will and Testament, trust, durable powers of attorney for health care and finances, and your advance directive (living will). It’s easy to make errors in legal forms. If you make a mistake when using a DIY form or use an inappropriate form, your documents may not be legally valid in Arizona. The problem most likely won’t be discovered until it’s too late to fix. The consequences could be disastrous.

Even if all or parts of your DIY documents are legally valid, they may have unintended consequences under Arizona estate laws. In addition, if some of your DIY documents are partly or completely invalid, state law may determine who gets your property when you pass away. Your intended beneficiaries may not get what you wish — and may even get nothing at all. The individuals who make your health care and financial decisions if you become incapacitated may be determined by a judge — and might not be the individuals of your choosing.

If you own a business, succession planning is a critical part of your estate planning. Ensuring that your business is viable in the event of your incapacity or death involves complex considerations. If you attempt to create your own business succession plan or do not include one in your estate plan, it could mean that your family loses control of the business, or your business may not continue at all if you become incapacitated or pass away.

3. Your DIY documents or estate plan may create family disagreements, cause legal problems, and necessitate court involvement.

Family conflicts over estates and caring for incapacitated family members are not uncommon. They can tear a family apart and permanently ruin relationships built over a lifetime. Using a DIY approach to estate planning can result unnecessarily in family disputes, legal issues, and court actions between family members.

Careful estate planning — and sound advice from an experienced lawyer — actually helps to avoid family disagreements. You can read about how issues arise and how your estate planning attorney helps you avoid them in our previous blog post, 5 Ways Estate Planning Avoids Family Conflicts.

Forms and DIY Estate Planning Services Are Not Worth the Inherent Risks

You might save a little bit of money using a form or service for your will or estate plan. That small amount cannot make up for the potential serious long-term consequences and costs. The damage that a do-it-yourself approach can cause is often unalterable and catastrophic for your family.

If you’re considering using forms or a service for your will or any other estate plan documents, at least take a little time to talk with a knowledgeable attorney first. At Peterson Law Offices, your initial consultation is always free-of-charge — so you have nothing to lose.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Trusted East Valley Estate Planning Attorney

At Peterson Law Offices, wills and estate planning are a focus of our practice. We provide top-quality services at affordable prices and can assist you in creating a new estate plan or help you revise your outdated plan.

We welcome inquiries from clients throughout the East Valley, including Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler. Schedule your free initial consultation by calling 480-878-5998 or using our online contact form.

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