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The Problem With DIY Estate Planning

With over 70 years of experience as Idaho estate planning attorneys we have had the opportunity to assist and help a variety of individuals complete their Estate Planning in a way that gives them peace of mind. During this time we have also assisted clients who have made an attempt to create their own estate plan either individually or through a DIY software or online kit. We have found that when this happens we almost always need to make changes or corrections in order to make the estate plan valid.

Our estate planning team of attorneys in Idaho understands the changing laws. We take pride in working with our clients in creating valid and customized estate plans. Our team includes partners Randy Budge, and Lane Erickson, and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our Idaho estate planning attorneys has achieved the highest ratings for their knowledge, ethics and legal abilities through AVVO, Justia, and Martindale and Hubbell.

It is very common for us to come across DIY estate plans that are lacking and that require additional documents to be complete or correct. We have found that there are three main weaknesses to DIY estate planning systems that our clients use. These three weaknesses are:

1. Your Needs may not Fit the Cookie Cutter Documents

The first major weakness of a DIY estate plan is that your needs may not be specifically met by such a plan. Each individual, and their individual needs are unique. There is no one package of estate planning documents that can meet every person's needs. Consider for instance a situation where you have children who are under the age of 18. Most cookie cutter estate plans do not provide an opportunity for you to be specific concerning who should care for your children through a legal guardianship. Even if it does, it may not allow you to provide specific instructions regarding the care you would like concerning each of your children and or the finances available to assist with that care. You may also not be able to separate out the guardianship from the finances for your children which may be a good idea under your circumstances.

Additionally, it's possible that your current circumstances would be best met by the creation of a trust or multiple trusts for yourself and/or for your family members. Most cookie cutter estate plans do not provide options for creating customized and valid trusts or specialized trusts that will protect your properties, meet your needs, and provide for you and/or your family members into the future.

2. A DIY Estate Plan may not be Valid

The second major problem that we find that occurs often in DIY estate plans are that these documents may not be valid. Idaho, like every other state, has very specific statutory requirements for each estate planning document that a person could use as part of their estate planning. If any of the formal requirements are not met, these documents may not be valid and enforceable.

As mentioned above, it is not uncommon for a client to bring to us an estate plan that they created through an office supply kit or a software system online. We have found that we are often required to correct or completely redo documents so that they will be valid and enforceable. Worse than this, we have had several situations where family members bring to us estate planning documents that they were relying on after a family member has passed away. We then are required to provide the bad news that these documents are not valid and that it is too late for them to be corrected.

3. A DIY Estate Plan may Create More Problems Than It Solves

The third main problem that we find that occurs often in DIY estate plans is that they often create far more problems than they solve. Unless a person has specific experience or knowledge about estate planning, most people don't know whether the documents they have produced are valid or not. Additionally, most people have no idea whether the information provided is clear enough to be understood.

In Idaho, as with most states, the law requires the intent of the individual who created the estate plan to be carried out. However, if the intent is not clear then the wishes of the individual who created the estate plan may not be accurately completed. This is true of instances where individuals have attempted to give specific gifts to specific individuals. We have also seen it occur in instances where a person intended to disinherit an individual but did not do it correctly. When using DIY plans problems arise often in family situations where there is a second or third marriage and where children, stepchildren, or adopted children are involved.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our Idaho Estate Planning lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you. Whether you are seeking to review your own customized Estate Plan or would like to help a family member, 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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