There are many DIY estate planning tools and forms available for a small fee, and the companies that offer them will let you believe it is simple to draft your own will or trust without an attorney.
While that may be true for some well-versed in estate planning and probate law, or those with few assets to protect, there are some pitfalls to avoid if you are attempting the DIY route for a more complex estate.
Not all Powers of Attorney are Created Equal
The term “power of attorney” is not a one size fits all term. Just because a Power of Attorney is created and signed, does not mean it will have the proper powers listed, leaving family with the authority they need.
Alternate Agents, Executors or Trustees
When you name an agent for a power of attorney, or an executor or trustee to administer your estate assets, don’t forget to also name an alternate. If for some reason your original choice were not available, having an alternate prevents the need for court to appoint one.
Minors as Beneficiaries
A minor under 18 years of age cannot directly receive property from an estate, and any gift would require the appointment of a guardian. To avoid this, a trustee or custodian should be named to oversee the property on behalf of the child.
Funding Your Trust
Once you have your trust drafted, there is one more step which is ‘funding’ the trust.This has to happen during your lifetime, and many types of assets must be re-titled in the trust name. Otherwise, all of your assets will have to go through probate, and the trust will have virtually no effect.
Reviewing the Estate Plan When Laws Change
You cannot really draft a will or trust and put it in the drawer and forget about it. Every year, state and federal laws change which could affect your estate plan. This includes tax laws and probate rules which could have an impact on how the estate is administered and distributed.
It’s very important to make sure the correct terms are included in your documents and there is not any confusion in the words used, or there could be costly legal battles later.
Did you make a DIY estate plan?
If you drafted your own will or trust, then you may want to review it and make sure it is up to date and complete. Those with significant life changes, increased assets or new family members may need more than a DIY approach at this point.
If you have questions about estate planning and if you need more guidance please contact the estate planning attorneys at Shoup Legal, A Professional Law Corporation, at 951-445-4114 or www.ShoupLegal.com.