Estate Planning: Do I need an attorney? I can do it myself.

Picture this. 7 pm in the evening. You’re hungry and you know you need to eat. You have two choices. Choice number 1: you can grab that TV dinner that’s been in your fridge for a few months. Thousands of people are eating the same meal tonight and will be tomorrow. It will fill you up, but you are not sure how healthful or nutritious it will be. Probably not too much. It will do the job for tonight but you can’t go on eating TV dinners every evening for the rest of your life.

The second choice? A gourmet restaurant, just down the street from you. It’s a little more expensive, but you know it will not only get the job done but it will be more nutritious for you. It will give you what you need but so much more. It will be fresh, organic, good for you. The chef will come out and explain all the techniques to you and will customize your meal to your exact desire, spice level (or not, if you don’t want any). Then there will be someone to make sure that it has been done properly before the hot, amazing dinner is placed in front of you. All the effort required from you was that you needed to show up to the restaurant. You wish you could eat like this every evening and you go home, content and happy with the choice you made.

This is the difference between a Do-it-yourself (DIY) fill in the blank forms for wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other document. They can likely get the job done, and if that is what you can afford at the time, then go for it. It is better than nothing at all.

When you are able though, choose to go to someone that can explain exactly what your choices are and what you are getting into when you create a trust and a will. When you get a lawyer that truly cares about you and knows that they will be around a long time after you, and that your family may seek you out for similar counsel, that makes all the difference in the world.

As for pricing, just like when you eat a bad meal, you know you are getting what you pay for. You might get a temporary fix but you know it is not sustainable. Whatever you pay for an attorney is worth the peace of mind, but more importantly, it will only be a quarter or less than what your family would pay if your estate ends up on Probate.

Lastly, a note about DIY services. I don’t speak for all attorney so these views are my own. We have a problem in this country that there are attorneys and people who need them but somehow, we cannot bring the two pieces together because of various factors: access to legal services, pricing, location, timing, and many more. So, if someone seeks out a service as a temporary fix understanding that they will need to upgrade at some point, I don’t mind it. It prepares them to seek an attorney at some point. If DIY services allow people to get legal help that would otherwise never seek it, then I applaud both the people and the service’s ability to reach out to them.



Disclaimer: this blog post does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is an informational piece that solely expresses the author’s opinions.