“Those who seek to replace proper professional advice with a do-it-yourself online documents in complex fields like estate planning should understand the effects of their actions. One should bear in mind that even those with fairly sophisticated skills think twice before venturing beyond their area of expertise,” cautions the American Bar Association special task force.
In recent years, the ABA explains, do-it-yourself (DIY) providers have emerged in many fields, ranging from income tax preparation to estate planning. DIY providers promote themselves by charging low rates for documents that would cost much more if produced by an attorney. Concerns about replacing proper professional advice with online documents prompted the ABA to form a Task Force to consider the issues that arise when consumers use DIY options for estate planning.
While the Task Force has not yet presented its final report, their fundamental concern is simple and important to consider. Discussing wills, the Task Force states:
“A will is one of the few human acts that survives death. It carries a legacy
that can have lasting financial and emotional consequences on those who
matter most — our loved ones. Mistakes made in the drafting of such an
important document can profoundly alter familial relationships, leaving our
family members at best confused or disappointed and at worst locked in hostile
“Who will explain your intentions?” is the question the Task Force raises. (If a dispute arises, the court would hear different opinions about the decedent’s intentions from interested family members. Who would the court believe? Many judges look for the opinion of someone who had conversations with the deceased, someone who does not benefit from the will, and that someone, more often than not, is an estate planning lawyer.
“The Task Force concludes, at least on preliminary review, that the average person should proceed with caution in using DIY estate planning as a substitute for a proper, professionally-drafted plan.”
As an estate planning attorney who has been assisting clients with legal matters for mmany, many years, I must say, I agree!
– by Rebecca W. Geyer