KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Online tools and books to create estate planning documents (wills, trusts, powers of attorney) are becoming more and more popular. People feel like they don't want to or can't afford to spend money to hire an estate planning attorney, but there are several risks associated with do it yourself estate planning.
Most of the online tools use a series of non personalized questions to create a fill in the blank form to create the document. If you aren't an attorney, you likely don't have the legal expertise to understand the estate planning lingo. If you don't understand the terms, your documents could have unintended consequences, meaning they may not accurately reflect your wishes, or they could be legally invalid. Estate tax laws are constantly changing, and attorneys keep up on the changes and can advise you appropriately. Lastly, an estate plan is more than documents, you also have to keep in mind account titling and beneficiary designations and make sure that they are in line with your documents for the estate plan to work properly.
There are cost effective alternatives to drafting your own estate planning documents online. Hire an estate planning attorney. Most attorneys charge by the hour, but you can search for an attorney that charges a flat fee for document preparation. If you hire an attorney that charges by the hour, be prepared for the meeting. Bring a list of your assets and an outline of your wishes in writing to save time during the meeting.