Gordon Fischer at desk with client

“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.

108 replies
  1. Kyle Winters says:

    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.

  2. Michael Haslam says:

    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

  3. Gordon Fischer says:

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

  4. Taylor Hicken says:

    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.

  5. Gordon Fischer says:

    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

  6. Lauren Jones says:

    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.

  7. Gordon Fischer says:

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

  8. Gordon Fischer says:

    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.

  9. Gordon Fischer says:

    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.

  10. Raisa Delima says:

    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.

  11. Gordon Fischer says:

    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

  12. Gordon Fischer says:

    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.

  13. Gordon Fischer says:

    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!

  14. Shenectady Wilson says:

    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.

  15. Gordon Fischer says:

    Thank you for you comment! Your father is lucky to have someone like you to help him have piece of mind over his assets. Let me know if I can be of any further assistance. -GF

  16. Tabitha Wilson says:

    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.

  17. Gordon Fischer says:

    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.

  18. Kiara Woodsland says:

    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.

  19. Gordon Fischer says:

    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.

  20. Gordon Fischer says:

    A very wise idea to enlist an estate planning attorney! Let me know if you have any questions as you work through the estate planning process. You definitely want to be prepared. Thank you for your comment. -GF

  21. Sharon Wilson Smith says:

    I like that you talked about how important it is to hire a lawyer for estate planning to help you draft a thorough estate plan. This is because a professional estate lawyer knows how to handle the complexity that involves in drafting an estate plan. My grandmother is looking to hire a lawyer to help her draft her will. It’s important for me to make sure that this will be an easy task for her, so it will make sense to hire a professional that can make everything easier for her. I will make sure to consider all your tips on choosing an estate lawyer.

  22. Gordon Fischer says:

    Thank you kindly for you comment, Sharon. It will definitely be easiest for your grandma with a professional taking care of the process and making sure all her estate planning goals are met.

  23. Jaque Christo says:

    Thank you for the 9 reasons you need a lawyer to write your estate plan. I definitely like the idea of having someone who understands the nuances and laws pertaining to wills and estate plans helping to walk you through your own. Plus I’m sure writing one is a time-intensive matter that you would rather spend elsewhere.

  24. Gordon Fischer says:

    A very good point on the time-intensive aspect, Jaque. To reduce risk of litigation or the estate plan being invalidated it’s definitely a must to work with an estate planning lawyer. Thank you for your comment!

  25. Scott Adams says:

    I like that you talked about how it can take a lot of time to write a complete estate plan yourself. I have been getting older and I think it’s time to plan for the future. I can see how it would be nice to have a lawyer help me plan out my estate. That way, I won’t have to worry about making mistakes while writing the plan.

  26. Gordon Fischer says:

    Avoiding mistakes is always a good idea in almost everything…but especially important legal/financial documents! Thank you for your comment Scott. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with moving forward. -GF

  27. Gordon Fischer says:

    Thanks for reading and for the comment, Callum! I too think it’s important to make that distinction between a will and a estate plan as one is the part of a whole. -GF

  28. Sam Li says:

    It was really helpful when you suggested that it would be best to hand off drafting an estate plan to a professional because it requires a lot of work and involves a complex task. I’ve been investing in different properties, and it’s crucial for me to make sure that all my assets are going to be protected once I die. Since I don’t have the skills and the time to learn how to write an estate plan, it’ll be a lot better for me to consider hiring an estate lawyer. I will make sure to consider all your tips.

  29. Ruby Penrod says:

    I never knew that a will was only one document of six needed for an estate plan. My grandpa is preparing to write his will. Thank you for information on wills and estate plans and why to hire an attorney.

  30. Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for explaining why it could be good to have a lawyer to write an estate plan. It’s nice to know that a will is just one legal document needed for an estate plan. I’m interested to learn when a will is written in an estate plan or if it should be done first to determine the rest of the plan.

  31. Gordon Fischer says:

    Hi, Taylor! A will is a part of your estate plan and all the six key documents can be executed at the same time. No need to get a will first and then financial power of attorney (for example).

  32. Gerty Gift says:

    I liked what you said about a will not being the only things that you need to plan for with your estate. I didn’t know that and I have a relative who is looking to do some estate planning. I think that it would be really smart for them to involve a lawyer so that they don’t miss anything important.

  33. Sarah Smith says:

    I didn’t realize that estate planning could be so complicated. Your advice to save time, energy, and money by hiring an estate planning lawyer is really helpful. We’ll keep this in mind as we go forward so that we can make sure our wills are written and executed correctly.

  34. Mackensie Graham says:

    That’s great you’re going to help facilitate your mom in getting her wishes and intentions down in an estate plan! Let me know if I can be of any further assistanct.

  35. Mackensie Graham says:

    Thanks for reading, Gerty! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions as you move forward with estate planning.

  36. Mackensie Graham says:

    Saving money is definitely a major reason to link up with a quality estate planner! And, really, with the right attorney on your side making sure all goals and assets are taken into consideration, hopefully the estate planning shouldn’t be that complicated!

  37. Mackensie Graham says:

    I would definitely keep encouraging your father to work with an attorney. If the estate plan is not written correctly or lacks any required formalities it could be viewed as void by the court after he passes, which is akin to him not making one at all. If he’s going to take the time and energy for an estate plan, I would recommend getting it right on the first go!

  38. Olivia Nelson says:

    Thanks for the tip about how hiring a lawyer to write your will could save you money. It would make sense to find someone who is qualified to help as well. My husband and I are looking for an estate lawyer, so we’ll have to check their cost first.

  39. Georgia B says:

    I love that you differentiate between whether or not you can write your own will or whether you should do that. It definitely makes sense that hiring an estate planner would help lift a lot of burden from your shoulders. That alone would be enough of a reason for me to want to hire someone to help me write my will!

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