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Gordon Fischer at desk with client

9 Reasons You Need a Lawyer to Write your Estate Plan

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” —Shakespeare, Henry VI

This line is oft-quoted to suggest the Bard felt contempt for lawyers. But, it’s notable that Will, one of the most acclaimed writers of the English language, hired a lawyer (Francis Collins of Warwick) to craft a very detailed will.

DIY Will?

Still, a common question I get all the time is, “Can I write my own will? Do I really need an attorney?” It’s a fair question.

In this age, you can watch a YouTube video, read a DIY blog post, or ask your network on Twitter, to fix or build or make almost anything. There’s limitless information, which makes it feel like you can bypass the “pros” for a cheaper, simpler fix. So, yes, you can write your own will or use an internet service like LegalZoom.

The question, though, isn’t whether you can write your own will, with some research surely you can. The question is instead: should you write your own will? And, if so, will it be valid and hold up in court?

To this point, hypothetically, with lots of study, you could perform oral surgery on yourself, but should you do so and will it turn out well?

Economic Self-Interest?

Before I provide nine reasons you should hire a lawyer to draft your estate plan, let’s deal head on with the idea that my conclusion is based on my own economic self-interest. “Of course you want people to hire an estate planning lawyer, because you are one!”

But, I’m not saying you should hire a lawyer only if that lawyer is me, Gordon Fischer of Gordon Fischer Law Firm…although, if you’re interested, we can certainly schedule a free consultation with no obligation. Rather, I’m just saying you should hire a competent lawyer well-versed in estate planning and probate law. There are many fine Iowa attorneys. This is not about me and my money, this is about you and your money.

The plain truth is you need a lawyer to help you with your estate planning. Here are nine reasons why.

Reason #1: You need more than just a will

Always remember, and never forget, you don’t just need a will, you need an estate plan. While the two terms “will” and “estate plan” are often used interchangeably, this is wrong, as they are two different things. An estate plan is a set of legal documents to prepare for your death or disability. A will is just one of those legal documents, albeit an important one.

In fact, there are at least six “must have” estate planning documents you need. So, you don’t need to draft just one legal document and get it right, but several.

Reason #2: Save time and energy

Handing off the complex task of drafting a thorough estate plan to a responsible professional will alleviate an immense burden on you. It’s simply a lot of work to write an estate plan.

Reason #3: Save money

change-in-jar

Without an estate plan, you and your estate may end up paying more in the long run in professional fees, court costs, and taxes. Using  a flat rate with an attorney will be much more straightforward and to your long-term economic advantage.

Reason #4: Save more money

An experienced attorney knows where to look and what questions to ask to help you secure additional tax and financial benefits.

Reason #5: It’s complicated

I’ve mentioned this before, but this stuff is hard. It’s part art and part science. Every phrase, every word, can undo an estate plan.

Plus, the law is dynamically changing all the time. The federal government, Iowa government, agencies like the IRS, and courts at every level are changing the rules of the game constantly. It’s almost a full-time job keeping track of the current play of the rules, let alone learning the rules to begin.

Reason #6: One Shot

Cathedral Ceiling

After you shuffle off this mortal coil, how many chances do you get to get your estate plan right? One! There is no second chance.

If, for example, you write your own will, and forget or overlook a key requirement, and then something happens to you, there can be no do-over. It’s done. Plus, your estate plan will probably need updates and revisions following any big life changes that you’ll want a lawyer to help you address. (See reason #8 for more on this.)

Reason #7: Objectivity

Along with expertise, lawyers offer objectivity. By working with a lawyer, you’re going to bring that extra voice of reason to bear on current and future estate planning needs. Is it a good idea to leave your entire estate to your dog Buster? Is your 18-year-old kid truly mature enough to handle your IRA worth a million dollars? A lawyer can give you direct, unvarnished, and unbiased advice.

Reason #8: The only constant in your life is change.

As your life changes, your estate plan must adapt. Perhaps you move to a new state. Maybe you have a kid and then some more kids. The kids grow up and have kids of their own. Throughout, perhaps you marry or divorce. Your financial situation significantly changes. All these life events, and many more, necessitate changes to your estate plan. You need a lawyer to tell you when your estate plan needs a tune-up and to perform the tune-up.

Reason #9: Lawyers themselves!

Judge-Judy-Lawyer-Probate-Court

It’s funny to think about, but nonetheless true. After you die, who will determine if your estate planning documents are valid? Lawyers! State judges (who will, of course, be attorneys) are going to review your estate plan documents. These judges will determine whether your documents meet the necessary requirements. You don’t want to leave it up to a judge, trained as a lawyer, to try to figure out if your DIY documents are valid under the Iowa Probate Code.

Closing Argument

Have I convinced you? Or do you still want to go it alone?

Feel free to contact me any time to discuss further why you need a lawyer to draft an estate plan. I offer a one-hour free consultation, without any obligation. I can be reached any time at my email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com, or on my cell, 515-371-6077.

26 Comments

Kyle Winters

The article makes a great point by bringing up that it is lawyers who ultimately decide whether or not your will is legal. That is why it is so important to hire an estate planning attorney in the first place. Working with them you can ensure that any plans for your estate are legal and will be carried out after your passing.

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Michael Haslam

Hi,

I am really glad to read your post. Estate planning is really important. An Estate planning attorney can draft living trusts, develop a plan to mitigate or avoid estate taxes. This can also support your family, especially your children, during your absence and their vulnerability.

Thanks for a great share!!

Regards

Michael Haslam

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Gordon Fischer

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Michael! I completely agree about how estate planning is especially important for you children.

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Taylor Hicken

My grandma has talked to me about her estate planning before, and it just made me so nervous for the future. I’m curious if she hired a lawyer to help save her some time and logistics of her terms. I haven’t even looked at her will before, so I’m curious what it’s going to look like.

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Braden Bills

I want to make sure that I get my estate taken care of. I didn’t realize that it could be so difficult to handle that kind of thing on my own! It would definitely be a good idea for me to get a professional attorney to help me out with it.

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Gordon Fischer

Certainly a good idea, Braden. Thanks for the comment and let me know if you would like me to contact you to get the process started. -GF

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Lauren Jones

My grandma and grandpa are getting older, and they want to make sure things are properly settled for their children when they are no longer around. They are thinking of hiring an attorney to help them with their estate planning. It is good to know that an experienced attorney knows where to look and which questions to ask to help secure additional tax and financial benefits. I am also glad to know that these lawyers can help with complicated paperwork. I will be sure to share this information with my grandparents, thanks.

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Gordon Fischer

Glad this blog could help a little bit! Your grandparents are smart to ensure things are properly settled. Thanks for the comment. -GF

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Amanda Drew

Wow, I did not know that you needed at least six documents for your estate planning. My husband and I have two kids now, and we want to make sure that they will be taken care of if anything happens to us. We’ll have to find ourselves a probate lawyer to figure everything out.

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Gordon Fischer

Amanda, thanks for your comment! With minor children it’s particularly important to have an updated plan in place. Don’t hesitate to reach out via email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or phone (515-371-6077) and we can get your family’s estate plan started.

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Brayden Brade

That’s interesting that you can actually save money by hiring an attorney. My father thinks its time that he write his will so I’m helping him research his options. Thanks for the great information.

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Gordon Fischer

I’m glad you found this useful Brayden! Let me know if I can help with any other questions you (or your father) may have.

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Raisa Delima

I never knew that I needed more than a will! If that is the case, I need to call an estate planning lawyer soon because that is all I have right now. I’ve heard that each estate is different, so I need one that can work with my unique situation.

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Gordon Fischer

Definitely a good idea to get the other important documents such as power of attorney. While you’re at it, you can also update your Will if there have been any life changes. If you have any questions or would like to work together, don’t hesitate to reach out! -GF

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Deb Pearl

My dad has been wondering if he could write his own will. He thinks that he doesn’t need a lawyer to help him out. I think that he should find a lawyer to help him out. I think it would be hard to write something like that without guidance of some sort. If the lawyer could help secure additional tax and financial benefits too that would be great! I will have to convince my dad to get some help! Thanks for the information!

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Gordon Fischer

Thanks for your comment Deb! Your dad is lucky to have a smart person like you looking out for him. It’s true. He should definitely enlist an estate planning professional as the financial and legal benefits are well worth it. I’m happy to help if your father has questions. Email is gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com and phone is 515-371-6077.

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Derek Dewitt

I can see why someone would want to hire a probate lawyer, especially if they are getting to towards the end of their life. I like that you mention how a lawyer can give you direct and unbiased advice about who you are including in your estate planning. This sounds useful if you can’t decide who to include in your will or not. Thanks for sharing!

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Gordon Fischer

Definitely. The unbiased or outside perspective can be extremely helpful in relation to the emotional aspects and sometimes difficult decisions of estate planning. I appreciate your comment Derek!

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Shenectady Wilson

I’m glad I came across your article about an estate plan. My father talked to me this morning and asked me to find him a probate lawyer. He wants to make sure that all his properties are properly distributed whatever may happen. I like that you talked about how lawyers offer objectivity who can help my father in making decisions. I will make sure to contact a probate lawyer now to set an appointment. Thanks for sharing your article about writing your estate plan.

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Tabitha Wilson

Thanks for sharing your article about the reasons why you will need to hire an estate lawyer. My most favorite part of your article is when you talked about how an estate lawyer can help you create a draft of a complex estate plan which will make the process convenient for you. My grandfather is interested to talk to a professional attorney about his current properties and the way he likes it to be distributed among his children. It’s significant for him to find someone who will make everything easier for him most especially that he knows how complicated it is to make a legal will. I’ll go ahead and share your blog with him so he can refer to it.

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Gordon Fischer

Thank you so much for your comment, Tabitha! It’s definitely a good idea for your grandfather to speak with an experienced estate planner…especially if there is multiple properties involved. I’m happy to speak with your grandfather as well, if he would like. Reach out to me at any time.

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Kiara Woodsland

Thanks for sharing your article about hiring a lawyer to help you write an estate plan. I like that you talked about how the law is dynamically changing all the time which will require a professional keep track of the updates and understand them. The father of my husband is looking to hire a lawyer to help him draft an estate plan. According to him, he wants to be prepared because you can never expect life to go according to your plan. It’s important for him to find a lawyer that is updated with the changes on the law so my father’s husband can be informed beforehand if there should be any updates that need to be done on his will. I will make sure to share your blog with him so he can get some tips on hiring an estate lawyer.

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Gordon Fischer

Kiara, thanks for the great comment & your father-in-law is a wise man to seek out an estate plan. Let me know if you or he may need any additional information. It’s never too early to put a solid estate plan in place to protect your wishes and legacy.

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