Many People Write Their Own Will: This Is Why They Shouldn’t

Sometimes, the worst happens and we aren’t prepared for the consequences. Other times, the worst happens and we think we’ve prepared–even though we really haven’t. A lot of people fall into this second category because they retain their own services when it comes to estate planning instead of retaining the services of a more qualified legal expert who knows the ins and outs of the business of estate law.

Sure, there are often good reasons.

A lot of people just don’t have enough cash to get the help they need. But that isn’t always the case, and anyone who can afford to hire legal counsel to help sort out their affairs before the unfortunate untimely death should definitely do so as quickly as possible.

If you think you can skip legal advisement, write your own will and have it officially notarized–think again. In some states, wills cannot be notarized. Instead, they must be formally witnessed by two people outside of the circle of inheritors. In other words, even if you could notarize the document you can’t choose people who are to receive some of your assets or property. Naturally, it can be difficult to find people willing to do this if they aren’t getting anything in return.

Cheap, simple-to-fill-out forms can often be downloaded online, but the required probate can exacerbate your already stretched-thin resources if money is the primary concern when you try to avoid hiring legal help for your estate plan. Probate simply means validating your will in order to split your assets up and make sure the right people get them. It’s that process that’s so expensive.

If you want to avoid that pitfall, then you can file certain major assets such as real estate as though you cohabitate. When the owner passes away, you eventually inherit the home and avoid certain taxes you would otherwise be forced to pay. You can also create a revocable living trust in some circumstances in order to designate others to manage assets set aside as part of the trust. You can place limitations on who gets what, how, when, and most importantly–if. On top of that, it can be altered as needed. Even if you choose a revocable living trust, you’ll still want a will for anything you didn’t include under the umbrella of the trust. After that, choose power of attorney and you’re ready to go.

Here’s the thing: it’s the little details like these that make estate planning so complicated and difficult to process for a mind that hasn’t studied it for years and years. An estate planning lawyer will be able to handle a lot of the details, the paperwork, and help you avoid some of the taxes you would send off to Uncle Sam before you head to the afterlife. Even if you think you can’t possibly afford to retain the services of counsel, you should probably give it a try anyway.

Most lawyers provide an initial consultation free of charge, and are often willing to help you juggle the money you have now–even if it means they get paid slowly instead of immediately. Don’t sweat it too much, just go and find out what will and won’t work for you. At worst, you’re still left without counsel and you can turn to the internet to assimilate as much information as it has to provide for free.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.