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Should You do Your own Estate Planning?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

We live in a do-it-yourself world. Due to the wealth of information located on the internet an individual has the ability to learn how to do many things themselves. From home improvement projects, to mechanics or decorating, there is a source for just about anything that you would like to learn how to do yourself. Some people even take this notion of doing it yourself to the extreme such as treating themselves medically, or doing their own legal work. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself and gain a new area of learning, there are some areas in your life that are best left to experts who have the knowledge, training, and skill to do exactly what needs to be done to help you. Preparing an estate plan fits into this category.

For over 70 years our team of premier Idaho estate planning attorneys have assisted clients in completing their estate plans. While there are some parts of estate planning that everyone needs, estate planning is unique and should be customized to fit the individual needs of each person. At the Racine law office our Idaho estate planning team is made up of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys are experienced and have earned the highest rankings possible on Martindale-Hubbell, Justia, and AVVO, which are all legal reporting services that provide details on the skills and abilities of attorneys.

To be clear, there is no specific law that requires an individual to use an attorney to create their estate plan. This is because people are free to choose to do things themselves if they want to. however, here are three specific reasons that using an experienced estate planning attorney can help you and your loved ones avoid extra expenses or problems.

1. Mistakes are Expensive to fix, if They can be Fixed

The best place to start is to state that in Idaho any person can create a legally valid last will and testament by themselves. This is because in Idaho there are two kinds of valid wills. The first kind of valid will is a formal written will that is typed up, is signed by the individual, is dated, has at least two witnesses sign, and is properly notarized. The second kind of valid will is known as a holographic will. This kind of will is a document that is done completely in the handwriting of the individual themselves, and then is signed and dated. I often have clients come in for me to review either a formal or a holographic last will and testament that they created themselves either from software, or from some service on the Internet, or simply because they heard that it was a good idea to do it so they wrote it out on their own. When this happens, there are almost always big problems that have to be fixed in order for the last will and testament to do what our clients really want.

The most common scenario is that a client will have tried to have done their last will and testament themselves by spending very little money on software or some online service. Then, when my client brings this document into me to review, I can see the mistakes and the things that need to be fixed. In the end, my client will then hire me to redo their last will and testament for them so we can fix the mistakes that exist. As a result, my client ends up paying twice for a last will and testament rather than simply having it done correctly the first time.

An additional scenario that happens all too often, is that a loved one will come in after their family member who created their own last will and testament has passed away. In this instance, there can be no changes made because the individual has already died. As a result, we are usually stuck with whatever document they have prepared which includes the mistakes that exist in that document. In this circumstance, we have seen many issues that have caused grief, and worse, family fights among remaining family members.

2. Your Estate Plan Should be Customized for You

The ultimate goal of estate planning is to provide a customized estate plan for you that will meet all of your needs, your goals, and any other specific circumstances that exist in your life, relationships, or family. Because no two individuals are exactly alike, there is no one estate plan that can be used for every single person and meet every single need. Rather, an experienced estate planning attorney can understand what your circumstances are and can then help craft an estate plan that is customized to fit your specific needs.

By working with an experienced estate planning attorney you get the collective knowledge, experience, and expertise of that attorney, in helping you individually. Our experience is that what a person uses online resources, or software packages, or an inexperienced attorney, the estate plan they end up with is usually a cookie-cutter system that provides the exact same estate plan for every individual without taking into consideration their individual needs or circumstances.

3. Your Estate Plan Should Avoid Family Problems, not Create Them

The ultimate goal of estate planning is to do exactly what it is you want to do. For most people, this is to have an orderly and organized way to pass their money, property, and other assets to the family members, loved ones, and other individuals they choose. By doing this, most people would agree that family fights, misunderstandings, and hard feelings can all be avoided. This is one of the major goals we talk with our clients about as we are creating a customized estate plan for them.

Based on our experience, it is sad when a last will and testament doesn't really do what it is you want to do. However, it is far worse when your last will and testament is the source of creating family fights, or disharmony, or misunderstandings between your family and loved ones. Rather, a well-written and well-thought-out customized last will and testament should bring your family together and help their relationship strengthen after your passing.

We have helped numerous clients prepare customized estate plans that accomplish these goals. We are confident that we can assist you too.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

We are confident that we can help you. Whether you are seeking to create or review your own customized Estate Plan or would like to help a family member do the same, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation. You can also email us directly at We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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