DIY Estate Planning- Why People are Better than Programs

Are you a “do-it-yourself” type?    If so, we generally stand in awe of your MacGyver-like ability to unclog a stubborn drain, build a treehouse, or fashion a defibrillator out of a set of candlesticks, a microphone cord, and a rubber mat.

We know that it is ultra-tempting for capable DIYers to seek out online solutions for all sorts of things-including estate planning needs.   And we also know that it smacks of self-interest for an estate planning lawyer to caution you against the drawbacks of using these programs.

But, MacGyvers of the world, consider this:

  • Even those in search of a “simple will” may have considerations that aren’t readily apparent on the front end.
    A program can’t guide a client through the implications of estate planning choices with regards to a loved one with special needs or an adult child who struggles financially as the result of substance abuse.  We can.  A program won’t discuss your personal medical history to discuss potential long-term care planning needs and strategies.  We will.Relationships are at the very core of what we do and what makes us tick as effective advocates for you.  The more we know about your family, the better we can help you!


  • Each state has very specific (and sometimes differing) requirements for what constitutes a valid will and how signatures should be witnessed.  You can’t count on a program to verify that this is happening correctly and your heirs may only make this discovery later on.  Many mistakes with DIY wills involve the way that documents are signed and witnessed.
    And those requirements vary from state to state.  Example- If you serve as a witness to a will in certain states, then you can’t inherit anything under it.
    Estate planning attorneys are specifically trained in the laws of your state, which are ever-evolving.  And we’re ethically obligated to keep up on those changes.  You can’t count on a program for that.


  • Your will only controls “probate assets.  These include assets which aren’t jointly titled with someone else or don’t have beneficiary designations.  Proceeds from these sorts of assets (like life insurance or retirement accounts) are typically distributed according to beneficiary designations and the proceeds are paid out according to those instructions.In addition to preparing your will, we can coordinate all these moving parts to make sure that your beneficiary designations for these assets reflect your estate planning goals.


  • Online solutions for estate planning may seem like a cost savings on the front end.  But here’s the catch-if you unknowingly make mistakes on a form for a DIY will, you won’t know.   And the rules of intestacy will apply on the back end, which means that the state will decide how your property should be distributed . . . just as though you had no will at all.We know (really, we do) that it’s painful to spend money on estate planning, because you don’t live to reap the benefits even if you know your loved ones will. We do everything we can to be cost-effective for our clients and we regularly complete estate plans on a flat fee basis.  This encourages as many conversations as necessary for us to get to know you and your family so that we can best effectuate your estate planning goals.

We still stand in amazement of all of the capable DIYers out there-at least with respect to some things.

But people really are better than programs when it comes to estate planning.

And we’re here to prove it.