Can I Draft My Own Estate Plan?

Short answer - Yes. Right answer - You Shouldn't.

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The following is a transcript of the video above:

Can you draft your own estate plan? Hello, I'm your host, Don Rolfe, the owner and founder of Northwest Legal Planning, an estate planning and probate law firm located in West Linn, Oregon and serving the greater Portland metro area, and this is episode 23 of Estate Planning Weekly. 

And as I said at the top, what we're talking about today is how you can draft your own estate plan, and then we're also gonna talk about why I recommend that you do not attempt to do so. 

The first thing that you're gonna need to do if you wanna draft your own estate plan is pull out the old Google. And you're going to need to find out what documents you have to have in an estate plan. And then once you discover which documents you have to have an estate plan, you're going to have to find a way to write them. 

You're gonna have to find out what's included, what are the necessary clauses, what types of clauses you don't wanna have in them, generally whether or not. What kind of scheme is appropriate for distributing your assets, how you name guardians for minor children, how you set it up to make sure that you're protected if you're incapacitated, make sure that your bills get paid, your stuff doesn't sit there and bills piling up and so forth, to make sure that healthcare decisions are gonna be made for you by the people that you choose and in the way that you would want them to make those decisions. 

You're gonna have to figure out all of that stuff, and really, you probably can figure out most of it from Google. 

However, this isn't replacing the spark plugs in your car. Not everyone knows how a spark plug works or where it goes, but if you get on YouTube, you can probably find someone that's showing you how to do it on your specific vehicle. And in replacing those spark plugs, you know they're going to work once you get 'em all done, and you turn the car over, and it runs, you know that they're working. However, there are some things that could've happened when you were replacing those spark plugs that you did not intend and could be problems in the future. Were they over-torqued, were they over-tightened? Are they going to seize in your engine block because they were over-tightened. Did you forget to put release liquid on there so that when you do need to replace them, they're easy to take out, and they haven't seized into the engine block? Is your engine block aluminum or steel? The torque that you're gonna need to put on those is gonna be different based upon the type of material that your engine block is made out of. Now you can make, you can replace those spark plugs, and your engine's probably going to run fine, and it's probably going to do everything you need. 

However, the way that an estate plan differs from the engine block is there's no fixing it once it needs to happen. Once you become incapacitated, there's no fixing your estate plan if it doesn't work the way it's supposed to. Once you pass away, there's no fixing your estate plan if it's not working the way that you had intended. 

So while you can do it, and I know that there are a lot of people out there who do, because I see clients come in with estate plans that they have put together themselves. They're adequate. They're not the plans that I put together, but they're adequate. 

By the way, if you have any questions about this topic or any other estate planning topic, you can always schedule a free 30 minute meeting with me, either in person or on the phone, by going to myestateplanmeeting.com, and you can put yourself right on my calendar so that we can talk about this or any other questions that you have about estate planning. 

But these people come in, and they have estate plans, and they've grabbed a document from this website, and grabbed a document from this website, and maybe cut and paste some clauses from one will into another will. And what they end up with is a bunch of documents that, on their own, are okay and probably will work, maybe not, but they don't work together. 

The way that incapacity is determined in their durable power of attorney is different than it's determined in their healthcare power of attorney is different than the way it's determined in their trust document that they have drafted. And who is it up to to decide which of those ways to determine incapacity are the right way? Oftentimes, if there was a fight about it, if there were family members that thought it was the way it was in the trust, or another family member thought it was the way it was in the power of attorney, it could end up in court, which nobody wants to go to court. It's costs, delays, and in the interim, the stuff that you need to have done isn't getting done. 

So can you draft your own estate plan, and how do you do it? Yes you can, and by doing a lot of research and really understanding what's going on and how those documents all work together so that you get, you end up with the plan and the desired outcome in the end. 

Or if you don't wanna do all of that work yourself, you could always call someone like me. It doesn't have to be me. 

There are lots of estate planning attorneys out there that do good work. I think I do really good work. And if you wanted to work with me or had some questions for me, again, you can go over to myestateplanmeeting.com and schedule a complimentary half hour meeting with me, either on the phone or in person. 

So again, you definitely can draft your own estate plan. I would not advise it. I would not recommend it. And if you do, at the very least, I would have it looked at by somebody who does estate plans for a living to make sure that you haven't missed something, and it's going to work the way that you want it to. 

If you found this information helpful, I'd appreciate it if you could like it. If you wanted to ask a question without meeting with me, you can put it down in the comments. If you know someone who might find this information valuable, please share it with them. Until next week, I'm Don Rolfe, take care, bye.

About the Author Donald Rolfe

Father, husband, entrepreneur, and owner of a trivia filled brain. I help families and individuals plan for the unexpected and end of life. Schedule a Complimentary Strategy Session to chat with me, get answers to your questions, and find out about your Estate Plan options.

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