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Why you shouldn't have a do-it-yourself estate plan

The majority of Americans don't have a will. Even many of those who realize that they should put something in place to lay out how their assets will be distributed and, more importantly, who will take care of their kids, use do-it-yourself (DIY) methods.

There is no end to software options for people who want to draft their own will without the hassle and cost of consulting an attorney. Many people think they don't have enough money to warrant getting legal advice. Even some people with millions of dollars sometimes think that their estate is simple.

However, even a simple will is a legal document. It's subject to state laws. Here in California, those are complicated. If things aren't done correctly, you could be subjecting your heirs and beneficiaries to costly and time-consuming problems.

One lawyer describes the value in consulting with an estate planning attorney about your unique situation. He says, "With an online form, you have choices, but what you lack is this consultation of being able to say to someone, 'Walk me through this. Let me get this comfort level of how this would play out for me really for my family.'"

Further, DIY estate planning options aren't appropriate for many situations, such as those involving people with blended families, business owners and parents of disabled children who will need trusts. Even if you start the process with some type of estate planning software, you can hand it over to an attorney who will ensure that everything is in proper order. Another attorney says, "One of the most loving things you can do is not make people guess at what you wanted."

California has unique estate planning laws. If your estate plan doesn't conform to those laws, it could be invalidated, which means that your wishes may not be carried out. That's why it's worthwhile to have the help of an experienced California estate planning attorney.

Source: NerdWallet, "You can do your own estate planning, but should you?," Liz Weston, Feb. 08, 2018

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