The Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Living Trusts

Jan 6, 2017
Estate Planning Living Trusts

Have you tried doing your own physical exam lately? doing your own living trust

I mean, going to a doctor can be such a waste of time, not to mention the cost. It can be so much better to try to save money and just complete the necessary tests and lab work by yourself. Possibly, you have performed surgery on yourself? Maybe you have extracted your own tooth or filled an annoying cavity all without the assistance of a qualified dentist? Perhaps in this digital age, you have gone on the internet to accomplish these types of professional jobs with the help of a handy, online manual and a few tools from Home Depot?

Hmm, probably not!

Since performing such intricate and detailed tasks on your own would be considered fool-hardy and extremely dangerous. Even if you could do all those things by yourself, would you really want to bet your life that you were qualified enough to not overlook more serious issues?

So why is it any less foolish or hazardous to try to complete your own Living Trust without the help of an experienced estate-planning attorney?

Perhaps you like to walk on the wild side and cause yourself future expense and pain. Oh sure, mistakes to your Living Trust might not cost you times of discomfort and excessive costs. But, those types of errors can cost your family and other loved ones many months of challenge. Not to mention, with such documents, you can unintentionally disinherit someone, delay asset distribution or cause probate court interaction just by not knowing what you don’t know.  And these are just a few of the risks.

I am sure we all know someone who has completed their Living Trust or other estate-planning documents with the help of an online service.

They download the documents, complete them to the best of their ability, take them for notarization, and bingo…they believe they are legally covered for all eventualities. And they do this all without ever talking to any type of attorney, let alone an estate-planning attorney. They never consider that such a document may not hold up in court. They never consider that they might not have completely understood the legal wording or purpose of the document. They never wonder what would happen if someone were to contest the document in court.  Perhaps they think they can fix any mistakes down the road. Problem is, they might not be there to fix what needs to be fixed, thereby leaving their family in a huge mess after their death.

The following is part of Legal Zoom’s disclaimer: legal-zoom-disclaimer

“We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.”

This disclaimer is in place because they are not attorneys. They have not been educated by an accredited law school. They have not passed the bar. It is like trying to perform your own surgery with a helpful manual that you have downloaded off the internet. Imagine the manual having a disclaimer that says “we are not a doctor’s office or a substitute for an actual surgeon”. Would you continue or just call a surgeon? Yes, you are qualified to apply a Band-Aid, but surgery? Really?

If you are a single person with one beneficiary and no property, then an internet version might be alright for your estate-planning needs.  However, if your life situation is more complicated such as multiple beneficiaries, second marriages, or substantial assets such as a home, then such documents often do not cover all of the specific requirements necessary to ensure that successful protection and transfer of all assets.

It makes sense to work with an estate-planning attorney.

There are many benefits to dealing with an estate-planning attorney when discussing your family’s needs. They take the time to understand your case and provide specific direction for all of your unique requirements.  They can provide necessary legal advice and make appropriate recommendations so that you can be guaranteed a legal viable document that will be there when you and your family really need it.