Senior couple

Your estate plan can be simple and straightforward if your life is. But is it?

If you thought that basic form saved some money for you when it came to estate planning, you may find yourself facing some expensive challenges if it turns out to be invalid, according to The Daily Sentinel in “What is wrong with using a form for my will or trust?“.

If the cost of an estate plan is measured only by the cost of a document, a basic form will, of course, be the least expensive option — on the front end. On the surface, it seems simple enough. What would be wrong with using a form?

Actually, a lot is wrong. The same things that make a do-it-yourself basic form seem attractive, are also the things that make it very dangerous for you and your family. A form does not take into account the special circumstances of your life. Regardless of the size of your estate, that form could end up putting your estate in the wrong hands. That’s not what you had intended.

Another issue: any form that is valid in all 50 states is probably not going to serve your purposes. If it works in all 50 states (and that’s highly unlikely), then it is extremely general, so much so that it won’t reflect your personal situation. It’s a great sales strategy, but it’s not good for an estate plan.

If you take into consideration the amount of money to be spent on the back end after you’ve passed, that $100 will becomes a lot more expensive than what you would have invested in having a proper estate plan created by an estate planning attorney.

What you can’t put into dollars and cents is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your estate plan, including a will, power of attorney, and health care proxy, has been properly prepared, that your assets will go to the individuals or charities that you want them to go to, and that your family is protected from the stress, cost and frustration that can result when wills are deemed invalid.

Here’s one of many examples of how a basic, inexpensive form created chaos for one family. After the father died, the will was unclear because it was not prepared by a professional. The father had properly filled in the blanks but used language that one of his sons felt left him the right to significant assets. The family became embroiled in an expensive litigation and became divided. The litigation has ended, but the family is still fractured. This was not what their father had intended.

Other issues that are created when forms are used: naming the proper executor, guardians and conservators, caring for companion animals, dealing with blended families, addressing Payable-on-Death (POD) accounts and end-of-life instructions, to name just a few.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your specific circumstances and conforms with the laws of your state of residence.

Reference: The Daily Sentinel (May 25, 2019) “What is wrong with using a form for my will or trust?

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.