My DIY Project - Gone Awry

I was working the other day on what I thought was a “minor” repair in our bathroom.  Eight hours later and having already spent more than I expected I was faced with the prospect of bringing in a professional to “fix” my do-it-yourself (DIY) project.  I had all the right tools, but what I lacked was the experience and know-how to complete the project correctly.  This caused me to reflect on the oft asked DIY question when it comes to estate planning.  With the number of online and do-it-yourself (DIY) legal providers continuing to grow, some individuals wonder if they could do their estate planning themselves. The advertising is seductive: attorneys use similar forms, the cost is significantly less than hiring an attorney, and many of these websites and kits are created by attorneys. In addition, most people think their estates are not complicated.  The problem is, just like any DIY project, if you don’t know how to use the tools that are in your hands you can do some serious damage.  Even a single mistake or omission can have far reaching, expensive, complications that only come to light after the person has died.If you are willing to spend the time and effort learning to correctly use the tools, a non-lawyer could create some of the more basic planning documents such as a Will.  Unfortunately, unlike those who will spend several hours in a Home Depot class on a Saturday morning learning to tile a floor, in my experience when it comes to DIY estate planning most simply jump online or grab a form and fill in the blanks without any effort to learn the “do-it” part of DIY.Even DIY websites recognize that this is the real issue.  The LegalZoom “guarantee” states: “If your Living Trust is found by a court of competent jurisdiction within the United States to be invalid solely because it was created online through an internet website, we will pay you $50,000.”  The problem of course is not whether the Will is valid – that is a fairly easy thing to accomplish.  Handwritten wills without witnesses can be valid.  The problem is even if the Will is valid, does it do what you intended.Take a look at this language from the LegalZoom disclaimer (you have to really look for it on their site):“The information provided in this site is not legal advice, but general information on legal issues commonly encountered. LegalZoom is not a law firm and is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy, but are not protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine. LegalZoom cannot provide legal advice and can only provide self-help services at your specific direction; LegalZoom cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.”So just like me and my bathroom - think twice before embarking on DIY projects.  Especially when you will not be around to help fix the problems!