DIY estate planning

DIY Estate Planning

Planning a trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot for the next project is always fun for the hobbyist in the family. You make your plans on paper and make a list of materials you need, then you head off to the forest of possibilities. It’s true—making stuff is fun! When it comes to your future, the temptation to try DIY estate planning with premade forms on the internet can also be appealing. After all, how hard can it be? Phelps LaClair (serving Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale) wants you to know it may seem easy, but that’s far from the reality.

The List

When you decide to do a home improvement project, you need to know what tools and materials you will need. You consult the plans or instructions and make your list based on that. With DIY estate planning software, a list may not include all of the parts needed for your particular plan. As we say at Phelps LaClair, there are no boilerplate estate plans. Every situation is unique. Your financial position, real property, family relationships, business involvements, and tax liabilities will be totally different from anyone else’s. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to estate plans. How can a software program possibly account for every item that you will need to cover? It can’t.

Power Tools

Perhaps the biggest reason not to try to do-it-yourself home projects is a lack of understanding of how to use power tools. In the case of DIY estate planning, the metaphorical power tools are all the legalities associated with wills, trusts, guardianships, taxes, special needs, living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc.

One reason to consult an estate planning attorney is this: the law is inflexible. If you miss a critical statutory requirement, your estate plan will be subject to probate, or at worst, ruled to be invalid. When the mistakes are discovered after your death, your beneficiaries will be saddled with expenses far beyond what you thought you were saving by doing it yourself. In fact, they may not receive any of what you had planned to leave them.

Warranties and Disclaimers

As the saying goes, the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. But if you buy DIY estate planning software or pre-written plans online, you will notice a vast number of disclaimers following practically every section. Caveat emptor!


Phelps LaClair is a second generation estate planning law firm designing bulletproof estate plans for 40 years. We have helped thousands of families navigate the complex realities of estate plans. We can help you, too. If you are considering DIY estate planning, give us a call first for a free, no obligation consultation. This is too important to leave to chance!



Images used under creative commons license (Commerical Use) 01/06/2020  Image by roegger from Pixabay

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