Can you save money by using software to draft a DIY (do-it-yourself) will instead of paying an attorney? Technically, yes, you can draft your own will and save money, now. However, what you save now may cost your family far more in the long run. Although you can save money by drafting your own will, you may be inadvertently creating more costs, starting family tensions, and putting burdens on your loved ones to fix the problems you created.
If you’ve ever tried to solve household problems with a do-it-yourself approach, you’ve probably encountered situations where things didn’t go as easily as planned. That plumbing project that started out simple had an unforeseen problem and your 2 hour project turns into a month long fiasco. Do-it-yourself wills can run into unforeseen problems just like household projects. But, there is one big difference with a will, the problem doesn’t appear until you are dead. When you make a mistake with your will, your family gets to clean up your mess.
As estate planning attorneys, we see the good and the bad of do-it-yourself homemade wills. Sometimes, do-it-yourself wills work just fine and everything goes smoothly after you pass away. But, in many cases a homespun will causes problems from the small to the serious. Sometimes smaller problems and minor drafting errors can be fixed by an attorney. But, fixing those small errors can cost thousands of dollars in unnecessary attorney’s fees that could have been avoided with a proper will. Some problems can’t be fixed. A will that wasn’t properly signed is invalid. An improperly drafted will can accidentally leave your estate to the wrong beneficiaries. Or, an ambiguous will can start an expensive fight between your beneficiaries where only the attorneys win.
Do it yourself planning may also cause you to miss out on better options to plan your estate. There are legal tools that can save your family money and simplify an estate. Other options can provide better protection for your beneficiaries. But, if you draft your own documents you miss out on the opportunity to use these tools in your estate plan.
If the cost of drafting a will is a major barrier to creating an estate plan there are ways to reduce costs. Contact your attorney and see what options are available for cutting the cost and let them know how much you can afford on your budget. Your attorney may be able to provide options for reducing the cost and still drafting an estate plan that achieves your goals. If your attorney is unable to do so, they may be able to refer you to other attorneys who can provide a reduced rate. Do not try to draft your own will and then have an attorney review the will. This will only increase the costs in the long run. Most attorneys draft their documents from templates and it would take less time for the attorney to draft you new documents than to review the document you drafted.
The purpose of estate planning is to give you peace of mind and control. Peace of mind that you have properly planned for your family and the knowledge that you have control of your estate. If an estate plan doesn’t give you peace of mind that you are prepared for death, then it hasn’t achieved its purpose. A do-it-yourself will cannot provide the same peace of mind as a working with an experienced estate planning attorney who can ensure that your estate plan will work as intended. If you want the assurance that you have properly planned for your family, work with an experienced estate planning attorney to draft your will.