An inquiry was recently conducted by the respected magazine Consumer Reports that is of interest to people within the estate planning community. They wanted to find out if do-it-yourself estate planning documents were really valid replacements for wills and trusts created by licensed attorneys.
Staff members created last wills using downloads or worksheets provided by three of the leading online purveyors of legal documents. Three legal professors were asked to examine these documents and share their opinions.
The professors advised against do-it-yourself estate planning, saying the way that these documents were worded could result in what they termed “unintended consequences.”
We would like to shift gears at this point and speak briefly about special needs planning.
When you want to leave behind resources for a person with disabilities you have to be careful about jeopardizing government benefits that may pay for expensive long-term care.
If you simply were to use a do-it-yourself estate planning document to include such a person in your will, this direct inheritance could make the recipient ineligible for government benefits.
Though you were only trying to provide resources for someone that you love, proceeding without any professional advice could result in unintended negative consequences.
If you were to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney he or she would recommend the creation of a special-needs or supplemental trust to provide resources for a person with disabilities without impacting benefit eligibility.
There really is no substitute for licensed legal counsel when you are making choices that could have serious ramifications for your family members. The prudent course of action is to work with a legal professional when you are making preparations for the future.