This month in our Hoosier Estate Planning blog, we’re highlighting pitfalls to avoid by recalling some big mistakes made by celebrities…
Ten years ago, when Chief Justice Warren Burger died, his estate was worth $1.8 million. There’s something to be said for brevity, says Ashlea Ebeling in Forbes magazine, but in the case of Burger, writing his own 176-word will cost the family dearly. $450,000 was paid in estate taxes. To add insult to injury, the executor had to pay to get approved to perform duties such as selling real estate (something a well-drafted document would have allowed for without court approval.)

“Yes, it can be painful to pay for estate planning,” Deborah L Jacobs of the Forbes staff allows.
After all, she says, the benefits of a plan are delayed, and you don’t live to see them anyway!
And, in theory, she adds, you can use books or software and websites that spew out documents for free.

The trouble with do-it-yourself planning, Jacobs points out, is that even if your situation seems simple, there are many oddball things a layman wouldn’t think of that can go wrong, especially with a will, and these mistakes can end up costing your heirs a lot more (including in terms of aggravation) than you save in legal fees on the front end.

The value a lawyer adds is in big part related to spotting pitfalls or opportunities unique to your situation, Jacobs adds. If you still want to use do-it-yourself software, advises Jonathan G. Blattmachr of InterActive Legal, consider hiring a lawyer to review your self-prepared documents.

At Geyer & Associates, we think life’s journey is fraught with changes that take place long before a person departs this world leaving an estate to manage. These changes (such as marriage, divorce, children, a new business, retirement, and incapacity) require careful planning to protect the people most important to you and the assets you’ve worked to achieve.

Creating a change-responsive estate plan is hardly a one-time nor a do-it-yourself project!

– by  Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team