do it yourself

By Terrence Quinn, Esq.

Let’s start with a question:  True or False?  “You should create your own plan (will/trust/powers of attorney)  or do it yourself instead of letting someone else create it for you.”  Be careful to think this one through before answering.  If you have read my article on “Will Kits”  [1] you’re probably thinking “False!  You should definitely let someone else create it for you!”  On the other hand the title of this article clearly offers “do it yourself”  as not only a good idea, but is in fact the best idea.  Interesting dichotomy, huh?  It’s an even better contradiction.  Or is it?

The truth is that no such contradiction or dichotomy even exists.  There is no one better than you to determine how your assets, children and personal healthcare should be handled; and there is no one else other than a will/trust expert attorney that you should trust to create it.  Seem obvious?  Not so fast!

Less Than Half of Americans Have a Will

According to a Gallup News report of recent years, less than half (44%) of Americans have a will.[2]  Yes, you read that correctly…only 44%!  This means that if any of these Americans suddenly died, the distribution of their assets, care of minor or disabled children, and appointment of a personal representative of their estate will be left to state laws and probate court.    Usually, this also means that there is no reliable plan in place that appoints a fiduciary to handle medical or financial decisions on your behalf if you are alive, but incapacitated.  In 2018, this is a crisis of planning (or the lack thereof) that needs immediate attention, and here’s why:  if you or a loved one has not taken the time to have a will, trust or powers of attorney created, you have effectively allowed “others” to create your plan on your behalf.

If You Don’t Make a Plan, The State Will

The legislators of your state have created “intestacy” laws which govern and direct what happens to the assets, children, and personal healthcare of an individual that dies or develops cognitive deficiencies without a will or power of attorney.  While these laws were created for good reasons, applying these laws to your personal and family situation often fail to satisfy your intentions and interests.  And that’s the point – we don’t know your intentions and interests because you have not written them down in a legally sufficient and trustworthy fashion.  You have allowed someone else to guess at planning for you instead of planning for yourself.

Consider these questions:

  • How would you want your assets distributed if you were gone?
  • Would you want any of your assets to go to a church or charity?
  • Are you ok with 40% of your retirement assets going to Uncle Sam?
  • Who would you want to be guardian of your minor children?
  • Would you want your children to get 100% of your assets immediately or over time?
  • Would you want your spouse to split your assets with children or step-children immediately upon your death?
  • Would you want your child to become ineligible for governmental benefits if he/she received your assets?
  • If you couldn’t make decisions for yourself how would you want your healthcare to be handled?

Do It Yourself

Chances are that you want to be in charge of these decisions.  It is therefore important for you to decide to take control of your own planning, which is step one.  The catch, which is step two, is to secure expert support to ensure that your own interests and intentions are written in a legally sufficient and appropriate manner.  Well-trained pilots take us, via plane, to destinations that we decide to visit.  Similarly, a well-trained wills/trust specialist should develop your will, trust and/or power of attorney according to your expressed intentions. You make the plan, after all, it’s yours!  We’re involved simply to make sure it’s done correctly.  Don’t leave it to strangers.  So, do it yourself – take control of your plan, but do this one thing: engage the services of an expert wills/trust attorney to assist you.  You and your family will be glad that you did!

[1] See “5 Reasons Why Will Kits and Online Services are Risky Business” here: https://tgqlaw.com/5-reasons-why-will-kits-online-services-are-risky-business/

[2] See Gallup News article entitled “Majority in US Do Not Have a Will” at http://news.gallup.com/poll/191651/majority-not.aspx

 

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