DIY Estate Planning: No Logic RequiredNov 07, 2022
I frequently review questions and answers on the Reddit for Estate Planning. Many times, there are legitimate questions from people as well as good advice provided. However, I'm frequently reminded that there are a lot of people online who are seeking the answer they want to hear rather than the truth. In one such post, someone asked for "logical reasons why not to do (their) trust or will online?" The attorneys on that thread gave solid, logical, and experienced answers why it was a bad idea, but the person posting kept countering with accusations that the attorneys just wanted to make money. I finally had enough, and this was my response:
"I read through all of the comments so far, and I can compare and boil things down to a fictional post. Parent has a sick kid diagnosed with appendicitis.
Parent: "Hey, r/surgery, why should I pay a surgeon to remove my kid's appendix? I can get the same surgical knife through Amazon, and I have a book on how to do an appendectomy."
Reddit: "Don't do that. You're VERY likely to screw up and kill your kid. Get an experienced surgeon to do it."
Parent: "But the surgical knife is the exact same one surgeons use, right? And the book on how to do the surgery is accurate, right? I don't see what I'm getting from a surgeon that's any different, and surgery is a lot more expensive than buying the knife and the book."
Reddit: "Look, we've seen this crap go wrong, and people end up rushing their kid to the hospital, and the ER bill is FAR worse than the original surgery. We have a lot of personal knowledge and experience in this. Don't do it."
Parent: "You're not answering my questions on whether or not the surgical knife is the same and whether or not the book on appendectomies is accurate. I still don't see why I shouldn't save money doing it myself."
Reddit: "I'm a trauma surgeon. It's absolutely stunning how much more money I make handling a case to try to save a child's life when their parent tries to save money by cutting their own kid open because they didn't want to pay a surgeon as opposed to paying the general surgeon in the first place."
Parent: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I keep hearing that from you Reddit surgeons, but you're still not answering my questions about the knife, the book, and why I can't just do this myself."
Reddit: "In 95% of cases, we have seen the child die from the parent trying to do surgery, 4.99% of cases the child lives but has an extremely high hospital bill from having to be rushed to surgery."
Parent: "So you're acknowledging that it could be successfully done in .01% of cases, so the surgical knife *is* the same and the book *is* accurate."
The only real differences between this fictitious thread and this one is that it is illegal for non-licensed people to do surgery, and it is the potential death of a person on the line and not just screwing up an estate. In at least half of the DIY wills or trusts I've personally reviewed with people wanting a "second opinion," either the documents dramatically don't do what they thought they were doing, or *they aren't even signed or witnessed correctly* making them invalid.
A lot of experienced attorneys here have told you what an absolutely horrible idea DIY/website estate planning is, what a ridiculously high rate of failure it has, how much more money attorneys make cleaning up these messes after someone dies, and you're ignoring all of this because you want a philosophical discussion on boilerplate language. Just go buy the knife then.
Look for a full, and long, reaction video in the near future.
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