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“Do It Yourself” Estate Planning

By July 17, 2013Estate Planning

I’d like to share a few thoughts on a recent conversation I had with a client of our firm. This conversation is actually a very typical conversation and one that I’ve had with several clients over the past couple years.

The conversation begins with the client asking me to make a change to their estate planning documents, either as a result of a change in their family circumstances, a change in the law, or the death of their spouse. Each of those changes has the possibility of significantly affecting an existing estate plan, but it is also possible that a change in family circumstances, for example, may only require a minor alteration to the documents.

Unfortunately, an issue sometimes arises when that “minor” change is thought to be a “simple” change. Interestingly enough, there is a difference between the two. While in fact the change may be changing a trustee, modifying a distribution percentage, or replacing a health care agent, just because it seems minor doesn’t mean it is simple. One of the common misconceptions about estate planning, in this day of widely-available technology, is that all we have to do is go into the computer file, change a few words around and then print it out. And just like that, it’s done!

My job as your estate planning attorney is to make sure that your trust works – both while you’re alive and after you pass away. The last thing I want is for the trust to create any form of litigation after you pass away. After all, this is why you created a trust to begin with – to stay out of court. But believe it or not, when a “simple” change is done incorrectly, it can cause just as much litigation as a “complex” change done incorrectly. Thus, I take any change in your documents very seriously.

I also completely understand how any one of our clients might want to handle the change by themselves – meaning they prepare it themselves, print it out, and sign it. Is this possible to do? Of course. In fact, our trust actually states the necessary requirements for any amendment to the trust, and as long as those requirements are met, it will be deemed a valid amendment.

But think for a moment about other areas of expertise that we rely on during our lifetimes. Teeth cleaning seems pretty simple, right? But there is a reason why most of us choose to go to a dentist every 6 months to get our teeth cleaned. How about carpet cleaning in your home? Conceptually that seems pretty simple too, right? But how many of us have the skills, equipment, and time to do as detailed a job as a professional cleaner? And what about oil changes for your car? This is definitely something that can be done on your own, but how many of us still choose to take our car to a professional to perform the work?

Estate planning is no different. Granted, it may cost more to pay me to do it than if you were to do it yourself. But that is the same for the dentist, the carpet cleaner, and the mechanic. But the price you pay generally ensures that the work will be done right and accurately.

MH_iphone_splashWhy Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.


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