Why DIY Estate Plans Can Cost Far More Than Legal Advice

During tough economic times, people tighten their belts and carefully manage their budget and monthly finances. For a lot of families, this means making tough choices on where they should skimp and cut corners. One area that many people neglect or put off when money is tight is the preparation of important estate planning documents like advanced directives, power of attorney documents, wills, and similar documents that may be part of a comprehensive estate plan. However, “do it yourself” (DIY) estate plans are a dicey proposition that can end up costing far more than simply having the documents prepared properly up front.

The decision to use DIY software programs can be expensive because they can have significant unanticipated consequences. The article focuses on three specific areas where these “estate plan in a box” programs often fall short:

Lack of Updating:

Estate planning is affected by many areas of law, including probate law, intestacy law, tax law, banking law, and many other areas of legal specialization.

Our experienced New Jersey estate planning attorneys constantly follow new developments in law journals, state bar update publications, continuing legal education (CLE) programs, and other sources to keep up with this evolving area of law. DIY estate planning software programs are rarely updated, so they become obsolete quickly. These programs are even more likely to be outdated when there are changes in state law because it is extremely difficult to monitor and make changes for every change in these diverse areas of law in every state.

Limited Customization and Flexibility:

Many of these programs are nothing more than a way to generate crude generic documents that fail to even address tax implications and asset protection issues. Failure to consider these critical issues can easily cost many times the savings from using these programs in additional tax liability and other expenses.

Lack of Consistency:

The programs may not be sophisticated enough to identify when adding a new provision to a will or a trust invalidates the document when read together with other provisions already included in the document. Further, there may be automatic features that need to be turned off, which the user is unfamiliar with that can make unintentional changes in the will or trust document.

These examples are only a few of the ways that commercial document preparation software can undermine your estate planning objectives. The cost of an experienced New Jersey estate planning attorney can be a lot less expensive than a serious mistake in preparing a will or living trust. We are one of the most experienced and accomplished estate planning law firms in New Jersey with more than 30 years of experience. If you are considering estate planning options in NJ or NY, we invite you to call us now at (201) 690-1642 to set up a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning lawyer in New Jersey or New York City.


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