I have put my head in the sand for years regarding my estate planning. I am finally getting around to doing it but am considering drafting the papers myself. I don’t have any legal experience. Do you have any advice on this?
– Do-It-Yourself on Desert Gold
Dear Do-It-Yourself on Desert Gold:
I understand the temptation to try to do these documents yourself. You are not alone. Many people think that the documents can easily be done CORRECTLY on their own. Unfortunately, many do-it-yourselfers make significant errors, and won’t be around to see their “mistakes-gone-wrong.”
I met a new client two weeks ago. He showed me a Power of Attorney that he did on his own. While he DID get the document properly notarized, he DID NOT put his initials next to ANY of the different powers to give his Agent authority to act. He inadvertently created a Power of Attorney with no powers!
While the document “looked” correct to the untrained eye, if his Agent presented it to a financial institution, the legal department would have rejected it and turned the Agent away. The Agent (his son) would have been denied access to money in a time of need.
If I hadn’t caught this error, an attorney ultimately would have been hired to go to court to fix the document. This would have been more expensive than doing it correctly with an attorney the first time. Luckily, the client hired me to fix the document.
Fixing errors are costly and court dockets are filled with petitions to make right on do-it-yourself documents gone wrong.