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Do-It-Yourself Estate Plans: Should You Use Them?

By Myka Landry

With the advent of LegalZoom, Quicken Willmaker and many other do-it-yourself estate planning programs, it may be very tempting to do it yourself and save some money. This is especially true since many of these programs advertise that their documents are prepared by lawyers and are good in all 50 states. Even Robert Shapiro of OJ Simpson fame has been advertising doing it yourself with LegalZoom.

A good estate plan is not one size fits all, nor is it just a process of filling in blanks on forms. Many factors go into formulating an estate plan. The do-it-yourself kits can only cover the most basic circumstances. Even if you think your situation is very basic, you may need more than these kits can provide.

Furthermore, your estate plan is subject to interpretation according to the laws of your state. Since probate laws vary significantly from state to state, you will not know if your plan will work unless you know your state law. There is a reason that do-it-yourself programs contain disclaimers, such as the following: “The information contained in this program is not legal advice and is not a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice, consult an attorney.”

The purpose of doing an estate plan is to make sure your affairs are handled the way you want them to be. If your estate plan does not work, it leaves your loved ones with a bigger mess than if there were no estate plan at all. Don’t risk leaving your loved ones with a mess in order to save a few dollars now. Many estate planning attorneys offer free consultations. At least schedule a consultation with an attorney to evaluate your options.

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