DIY estate planning may come with hidden costs

For those inclined to do-it-yourself, the internet provides all but unlimited resources for just about any imaginable topic. There can be significant benefits to be gained from DIY projects, such as personal satisfaction and autonomy, but mostly they are undertaken as a cost-saving matter for important but expensive projects. For example, one can learn on YouTube how to fix a clogged kitchen drain or troubleshoot an automobile check engine light warning and find useful information. While there is no shortage of online sites offering DIY estate planning help, it's more difficult to know whether the information provided is accurate, up to date, and relevant for Michigan residents.

The old saying that "one doesn't know what one doesn't know" is on point. If the drain runs freely or the warning light goes off, the DIY project has likely succeeded, but if a DIY will is done incorrectly, the consequences may not be known for some time and the damage irreparable. Financial experts point out that while fill-in-the-blank type wills, for example, may be sufficient for some people, online estate planning sites rarely offer personalized service for individual circumstances, which are the reality for many.

For those who do have a fairly straight forward estate and do not own real estate, a reputable DIY site can be helpful. Documents such as a simple will, a financial power of attorney, and an advance healthcare directive can be adequately executed with a fill-in-the-blank template. And although they are not an equivalent substitute for ones prepared by a trained legal professional, it is certainly better than having no estate plan at all.

Research has indicated that less than half of all Americans have an estate plan in place. No matter the value of the estate or the financial means of the individual, an estate planning lawyer might be able to provide guidance on preparing for end-of-life decisions.

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