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DIY Estate Planning

KENDALL COUNTY WILLS AND LIVING TRUST ESTATE PLANNING LAWYER:  COMPREHENSIVE ESTATE PLANNING LAW FIRM

Seven (7) Risks of DIY in Preparation of Wills and Trusts

Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm concentrate in wills, living trusts, advanced healthcare directives, and estate planning in the Western Suburbs of Chicago.  The one size fits all mentality of Legal Zoom is dangerous. 

Estate planning is complex and difficult for general lawyers. The DIY approach often backfires, and the end result is thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and court costs.  More importantly, estate litigation tears up families.  Hiring an experienced estate planning attorney provides peace of mind and cost savings. 

An estate planning lawyer’s most valuable asset is not the final estate planning documents, but rather the counseling and advice on how to set up and administer your estate plan.  The counseling and advice part is what separates an experienced and inexperienced estate planning attorney.  DIY method fails to understand the unique issues involved in the estate planning interview and implementation process.

1ST RISK:  FAILURE TO FOLLOW ILLINOIS FORMALITIES

The first legal risk for DIY is failure to follow proper formalities. In Illinois, a Last Will must be in writing and witnessed by at least two (2) witnesses.  The Last Will and Testament should also be notarized (but not any witnesses or family members).  The creator of the Will or otherwise known as a “Testor” must sign the will in the proper places. 

Second, the Will must be witnessed by two (2) independent witnesses.  Independent witnesses mean that the witnesses should not be relatives nor receiving any benefit under the will such as an inheritance or serving as the executor or trustee (or contingent executor or trustee roles).  DIY have difficulty because mistakes are costly.  Mistakes result in estate and probate disputes and poorly drafted estate planning documents.

2nd RISK:  AMBIGIOUS TERMS AND A LACK OF ANTICIPATION

The 2nd legal risk for DIY is drafting legal instruments that are unclear.  Well-drafted legal documents are concise and easy to interpret.  Client-friendly wills and trusts are easy to understand.  Sean Robertson writes client-friendly wills and trusts without legalese.  Ambiguous terms or a lack of key terms create chaos in the estate planning process.  For example, Susan and Joe Smith sell their house and the title company wants to know what provision(s) in the Living Trust Agreement gives the Trustee the ability to sell real estate.

Improper estate documents fail to have key provisions.  An experienced estate planning attorney provides predictability.  Predictability leads to peace of mind.  Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm use estate planning software customized for estate planning attorneys.  The estate planning documents are well-written and concise. 

The lawyers of Gateville Law Firm provide counseling and predictability.  Customized estate planning documents are an aide but are one of many factors in a successful estate planning result.  DIY also fail to anticipate life events such as the adoption of a child or a newborn child being born to the marriage (or as their grandchildren).

Anticipating life’s events are important for estate planning attorneys because clients fail to update their documents.  Anticipating life’s events saves client’s money and headaches.  Anticipating life’s events is part of the planning process for an estate planning lawyer.

3RD RISK:  FAILING TO ANTICIPATE FAMILY CONFLICTS

The third legal risk of DIY is a failure to anticipate family conflicts.  Estate planning attorneys hear multiple stories about estate plans gone wrong.  This experience is invaluable because estate planning attorneys anticipate future family conflicts. 

Blended families have natural family conflicts and distrust among stepparents and stepchildren.  Today’s families are diverse and parents have children out of wedlock.  Blended families present unique estate planning challenges.  These challenges must be addressed and anticipated.  DIY fail to be objective. 

A good estate planning lawyer asks the right questions.  The right questions lead to the right outcomes.   Clients know the answers (if asked), but a failure to anticipate a conflict or ask the right questions, results in probate and estate litigation.  Estate litigation and probate court destroys families and tarnishes legacies.  

Legacies are tarnished because families become divided and bitter.  Every family has conflicts. Most families fail to anticipate conflicts in their own family.  A sign of inexperience is naivetes.  DIY is naïve.  Most DIY assume that their family is different.  After several questions, DIY quickly realize the opposite.

4TH RISK:  FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND TAX LAWS

The fourth (4th) legal risk for DIY is failure to understand complex estate and gift tax laws.  Families underestimate their worth and do not consider life insurance death benefits when considering their estate wealth. 

An improper estate plan can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes.  Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm understand when a family may be subject to estate and gift taxation and have a proper estate plan in place.  Trust can utilize credit shelter trust or otherwise known as “Family and Marital Trust” to automatically utilize each spouse’s estate tax exemption.  A credit shelter trust is a method of savings hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes.  Sean Robertson is experienced with different trust techniques, which provide customized value to each estate plan.

5TH RISK:  FAILURE TO CONSIDER THEIR CHILD OR GRANDCHILDREN’S SPECIAL NEEDS

The fifth (5th) legal risk of DIY is failing to understand Medicaid and public benefits.  Families of special needs children must consider the impact receiving an inheritance will have on their child or grandchild.

Naming a child or disabled adult can disqualify them from Medicaid or social security disability.  Unintended consequences are severe and result in unforeseen results.  A beneficiary’s eligibility for Medicaid in the State of Illinois is $2,000 or less in assets.  A well-structured estate planning is crucial to maintain proper assistance for disabled adults. 

Last Wills and Testament should have special needs language in case a person has an incapacity or disability.  DIY fail to understand incapacity as a major estate planning risk. A Special Needs Trust or otherwise known as a “Supplement Trust” should be considered instead of naming individual beneficiaries.

A Special Needs Trust protects a person’s inheritance and maximizes asset protection.  In conclusion, guardianship language for disabled adults are critical because a guardianship proceeding may be necessary without the parents.

6TH RISK:  RISK OF DIVORCE AND CREDITOR CONCERNS

The sixth (6th) legal risk of DIY is failing to understand the impact of divorce and creditor concerns.  A Living Trust has a spendthrift provision which protects a beneficiary’s inheritance from creditor concerns and a divorcing spouse unlike a will.  DIY fail to anticipate life’s events and most families want to protect their family’s inheritance from their in-laws. 

Bloodline Trust are a new type of trust which families ought to consider keeping their family money in their family bloodlines.  A bloodline trust’s purpose is to keep family money in the family.  The Trust Agreement for a Bloodline Trust outlines that the Trust Assets may only be used for blood descendants such as children and grandchildren.

7th RISK:  EVERY ESTATE PLAN IS DIFFERENT

The seventh (7th) legal risk for DIY is understanding that each estate plan differs like each family.  DIY fail to understand that every estate plan is different and must be customized. 

Online document software such as Legal Zoom have well-written software.  However, each family has different assets and customized language is necessary in estate planning documents to address a family’s unique circumstance. 

In the Western Suburbs of Aurora, Oswego, Yorkville, Plano, and Naperville, families are diverse and dynamic.  Each situation is different especially involving different countries, nationalities, and blended family make-up. 

EXPERIENCED YORKVILLE AND OSWEGO LIVING TRUST AND ESTATE PLANNING LAWYER

Sean Robertson and Gateville Law Firm provide customized estate planning for families in the Kendall County area such as Oswego, Yorkville, Plainfield, Joliet, Newark, Bristol, Plattville, Aurora, Montgomery, and Shorewood. 

Sean Robertson has been a licensed estate planning attorney since 2004.  Sean Robertson is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Sean Robertson may be reached at 630-780-1034 or via online contact form.

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