I remember being horrified a number of years ago by an online article advocating a DIY vasectomy. The article seems to have disappeared from the world wide web, but I still cringe as I recollect the step-by-step instructions which included puncturing the skin with a knitting needle then “hooking” the vas deferens with a crochet hook and “yanking” it in order to sever the duct! Truly disturbing!
My thought then and now is: who in the world would even consider doing something so ridiculously dangerous? And yet, there are myriad real DIY projects that seem just as foolhardy if not insane. Here are just a few:
DIY Estate Planning
A DIY Living Trust is not the best idea either. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- DIY and online legal documents are designed for a mass market, and not to the specificity of your situation or circumstance. They are “one size fits all.” These boilerplate documents simply cannot address the incredible diversity in people’s lives and families.
- The devil is in the details. The little things are often the big things. Said another way, small errors can result in large consequences. Many critical technical and legal details and protections may not be accounted for in your DIY Estate Plan, which could result in:
- Inadequate legal and tax protections for you and your loved ones;
- Exposure while you’re alive to the wealth-busting perils of long term medical costs and nursing home expenses;
- Potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more in taxes and costs which diminishes your estate and the value ultimately passed to your beneficiaries.
- Statutes change every year. Case law morphs constantly. As a consequence, DIY legal document templates can be out of date, inaccurate or flat-out wrong. Most of the prominent purveyors of legal documents explicitly state that they make no warranty that their information or materials will meet your requirements; that you should not rely upon their information for personal, medical, legal or financial decisions. They are telling you caveat emptor. Buyer beware!
- Your DIY Estate Plan may create a false sense of security. You may believe that you’ve protected yourself and the wealth for which you’ve worked your entire lifetime, when the reality is that your DIY efforts may not provide the type and breadth of protections that you thought they would. The worst part is that you’ll not realize it until it’s too late.
A knock-off iPhone may look like an iPhone. You may save a bucket of money when you buy the knock-off. But the reality is, it’s not an iPhone, never will be an iPhone, and will not give you the iPhone experience that the genuine article would have given you. You get what you pay for!
Likewise, when it comes to setting up your Living Trust, doing it yourself is seldom a wise decision. What may have seemed like a bargain at the time could, on the back-end, swiftly turn into a long, slow, expensive and public nightmare of unnecessary taxes, probate court costs and fees, high attorney’s and accountant’s fees, or – even worse, result in your assets being distributed to the wrong people at the wrong time.
An effective estate plan, on the other hand, will provide enduring financial stability to you, your spouse, your children and your other beneficiaries. It will protect your privacy and the privacy of your loved ones, and will ensure that your wishes are carried out after you are gone. A well-qualified attorney who specializes in estate planning can help you structure an estate plan that maximizes protections for you and your spouse or partner while you are alive, limit the impact of taxes, and ensure that your wealth and family legacy is lovingly passed on to future generations.
For more information about the hazards and pitfalls of a DIY estate plan, I invite you to review: Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Wills and Living Trusts, one of the 34 free reports available on my Firm website.