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What's wrong with do-it-yourself estate planning?

As you spend time with family over the holidays, you may start to think about what you want your children, grandchildren and others to inherit after you're gone. Even though that time may be a long way off, you realize it's best to be prepared.

You may determine, for example, that one of your adult children is better equipped to handle the task of administering your estate than the others. Perhaps one of your kids has shown a particular interest in your Montauk beach house, and you want to make sure they get it without having to fight for it. Maybe you realize that leaving money outright to your grandchild who just dropped out of college and is sleeping on a friend's couch in Brooklyn isn't a good idea.

You may be looking at the many "do-it-yourself" estate planning websites or software options. They seem a lot less expensive than having an estate planning attorney do it. However, in the end, creating these important legal documents yourself puts you at risk for some serious errors and omissions. In the end, a "do-it-yourself" estate plan can cause more problems than if you'd done nothing.

Let's look at a few things an experienced estate planning attorney can do for you:

Customize your will and other documents: Every family is unique. Yours likely doesn't fit neatly into a template. If you start inserting special provisions into an online document, you could invalidate the whole thing.

Choose the documents that best suit your needs and wishes: Maybe a simple will is all you need. However, many people's assets and wishes aren't that simple. There are many types of trusts, for example, that can save your family considerable money in estate taxes. Trusts can also give you and your designated trustee more control over the money you're leaving to others.

Advise you about updating your estate plan: Most estate plans require updates over the years as families grow and change. New laws can also impact your plan. Estate planning attorneys advise their clients about what types of life changes and modifications in state and federal laws require estate plan changes.

Even if you still think estate planning is a task you can handle yourself, it's wise to at least meet with an estate planning attorney. They can advise you regarding how best to leave the legacy you want for your family and others.

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