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Possible drawbacks of a DIY estate plan

Some people in Florida may be among the 40 percent of American adults who, according to the AARP, lack a living trust or a will. People may avoid estate planning because they find it costly or time-consuming or because they are uncomfortable discussing estate planning issues with an attorney. Some of those people might assume that using a do-it-yourself estate planning package is a solution to those concerns, but there can be drawbacks.

Not all DIY sites offer the same level of support. For people who know exactly what they need and who have fairly simple estates, a DIY package may be sufficient or at least better than not having an estate plan at all, but one common problem is that people are unaware of what questions they should be asking. They may not be aware of what issues might arise or are specific to their state.

Most people need, at minimum, a will, a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. The latter two documents ensure that people are available to make decisions and take action if a person is incapacitated. If a person needs a trust, has a complex estate or has complicated family dynamics, an attorney may be helpful in answering specific questions and guiding a person toward possible solutions.

For example, a person might have a relative who has special needs. That relative may receive government benefits, but getting an inheritance could make the relative ineligible. A special needs trust could be set up to benefit the relative. A person on a DIY site might not realize this could solve the issue. Attorneys might also be able to help ensure that wills and other documents use clear language and are prepared correctly. This may make the estate plan less vulnerable to challenges.

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