People have attempted to write their own documents, and we can honestly say every attorney we speak with agrees that writing your own Living Trust is a bad idea.
Here are four reasons why writing your own Revocable Living Trust is a BAD IDEA:
Estate Planning is not a one-size-fits-all or even most.
There are many books and online programs that can help with generating estate planning documents. But they are designed to cover only the most basic estate planning needs. These generic forms are also deliberately kept as simple as simple as possible in order to comply with the law of all 50 state and D.C. Complying with the laws in Arkansas wont help a family who needs estate planning in Seattle. Estate planning is kind of like fingerprints, no one is a like, and using a generic software or book wont help your loved ones in the future.
Trust Laws Vary from State to State
Stat laws are all different when it comes to issues like probate, state estate tax, inheritance tax and even Trusts and wills. There are so many different and specific issues it is best to speak with an attorney regarding your states laws. Probate in California is very different then probate in Michigan and can impact your loved ones after you pass. If you write estate planning docs yourself, they may not include provisions or topics that need to be addresses in your state. Here are some specific issues that can impact a Trust from state-to-state: definition of descendants, anti-lapse statutes, community property laws, homestead rights, common law marriages and many more. A generic trust cannot properly address all of these specific state law issues.
Books, software programs and online DIY websites all have the same type of disclaimer – “The information contained in the book/program/website is not legal advice and is not a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice, consult with an attorney.” We recommend just that, consult an Attorney!
You Get What You Pay for
Would you fix your own car? Repair your own computer? Perform your own surgery? I doubt it. While doing things yourself can save time and money in the short term, when it comes to estate planning, it’s the long term you need to worry about.
Here’s a brief story from an attorney who handled a Trust Administration for a family who did it themselves. A couple brought in their family’s trust. The elder couple had used a well-known attorney’s estate planning website to generate their own docs. When the family brought in the Trust, it stated on the first page that it was governed by Nevada law. I am a practicing attorney in Florida. What is the problem here? Nevada is a community property state and Florida is a separate property state. That was the first of many problems I faced. It was very clear the couple didn’t understand what they were doing when they used the software. There were many contradictions in the Trust, which made administering it a long and expensive process due to the amount of time it took to try to understand what their intentions were.
Give Hornstein Law Offices a call to discuss estate planning and Trust administration. Doing it yourself will leave your family with a big mess if done incorrectly, and could potentially cost you and your family thousands of dollars. 818.887.9401.