Can I Do it Myself?

Can I complete an estate plan by myself?

I get asked this question from potential clients, and the answer is yes – But – I remind them that these are important legal devices and my recommendation is that they use a trusted attorney who specializes in this area of the law – even if they were to choose not to work with me personally.

I also suggest that they ask themselves a few questions, such as:

  • Do you feel you would be comfortable working closely with the lawyer?
  • Do you think the lawyer has the experience and skill to handle your case?
  • Does the lawyer have any record of complaints reported by the state bar?
  • Do you understand the lawyer’s explanation of legal issues and answers to your questions?
  • Does the lawyer clearly explain what the fees will be, and how costs, if any, are to be paid?
  • Does the lawyer explain in clear terms not only the positive outcomes, but also any negative consequences or risks?

The stories of families spending effort, time, money, and stress litigating poorly drawn plans unfortunately happens because of the deceit or incompetence of those they chose to work with.

What Should I Be Weary of?

Here are some things to watch for to ensure you are not taken advantage of when working on your estate plan:

  • Businesses that assist with estate planning without licensed attorneys
  • Promotion of “one-size-fits-all” legal assistance
  • Being pressured into making a quick decision
  • People who contact you to discuss these services by phone or email and ask for private information on finances and other personal information
  • Check qualifications – including education, state bar license status, and expertise in estate planning
  • Always ask for a copy of any document you sign at the time it is signed.

The State Bar of California advises that to better protect yourself:

Consult a lawyer or other financial adviser who is knowledgable in estate planning and is not trying to sell a product that may be unnecessary – before considering a living trust or any other estate or financial planning document or service.”