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Estate planning needs professional guidance on a personal level

In California and nationwide, polls reveal that more than half of Americans do not have a will. That is a lot of people being left unprotected and facing uncertain results should a loved one die or become incapacitated without the benefit of estate planning. A will is only one tool in a varied arsenal of legal instruments designed to bring the maker peace of mind. That same feeling of satisfaction is also bestowed on the person's loved ones and chosen beneficiaries.

Many people fear the legal process of estate planning due to the perceived expenses and the investment of time that is believed to be involved. Therefore, some of them turn to online do-it-yourself remedies that are based on software programs. Just as autonomous, driverless vehicles get into accidents due to a lack of "real-time" experience on the roadways, a do-it-yourself legal remedy may take the participant into a legal morass that leads to nightmarish experiences for his or her loved ones.

The tailoring of a lifetime of circumstances to an estate planning or will-maker software program is a hazardous undertaking. The program may have dozens of model wills to fit common combinations of circumstances, but chances are that it will miss some factors that are unique to the individual's personal circumstances and needs. Experts agree that the best way to fashion an estate plan for an individual or married couple is by using an experienced estate planning attorney who will assure that all the unique factors are incorporated into the plan.  

Most importantly, the lack of personal interaction with an estate planning professional will result in the person failing to clearly understand the meaning and effectiveness of what has been done.  For California residents who try to do it through online forms, the inability to ask incisive questions and get thorough, personally-directed answers is a big detriment of the online model. One option for some people is to start with a software program and then take the resulting form to the attorney for refinement, a thorough examination and the necessary personal applications.

Source:, "You can do your own estate plan, but should you?", Liz Weston, Feb. 5, 2018

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