The answer to this question is simple. No, you do not need a lawyer to handle your estate planning. There are countless do-it-yourself estate planning options that you can handle on your own. However, there are numerous benefits to having an attorney assist you with your estate planning — especially if you want to make sure all of your goals are supported.
What DIY estate plans lack is anything personalized. They are formulaic, one-size-fits-all approaches to planning for your future and protecting your assets. Not only that, but these canned forms are not always in compliance with state laws. An experienced estate planning attorney, of course, understands both California and federal laws as well as how to achieve your goals while working within their parameters.
Personalizing Your Plan
One of the greatest benefits of working with a lawyer is that you can make sure your estate plan matches your goals and leaves no room for dispute. A lawyer will help you understand all of the consequences of each decision you make. Creating a will on your own may be a step in the right direction, but an attorney can show you other options that can avoid probate or protect your assets from estate taxes.
An experienced attorney will take the time to understand exactly what you want for your estate and your heirs and help you put together an estate plan that addresses all of your needs. You may know you need a will, but have you considered a power of attorney or a health care directive? An incomplete estate plan can create problems down the road — not only for you, but also for your loved ones who will be left to make decisions on your behalf.
What About The Cost?
A common concern about seeking the advice of an attorney is the expense. A good way to cut costs is to do some work before you meet with a lawyer. Think about what you really want and collect statements and other documents showing what assets and liabilities you are working with. By doing some work in advance, it can cut back on the amount of time you have to spend in the beginning figuring out your goals.
Of course, when you meet with a lawyer for the first time, ask what his or her fees are. This will help you understand the overall cost of creating your estate plan. Remember that the right estate plan can protect and preserve your assets in the long-run.
Although you can certainly create an estate plan on your own, having an estate plan that meets your needs and protects your loved ones is worth the initial cost for many people.