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ABA: Cheaper estate planning may lack proper requirements

During an economic downturn, people look for ways to save money. Sometimes the less expensive option turns out to cost more in the end. One technique of conserving cash that may lead to costly mistakes is pursuing the do-it-yourself approach instead of hiring professionals. This is especially true in legal areas, such as when people draft a will.

The California resident who wants to draft a will now has multiple options claiming to be inexpensive and reliable options for homemade estate planning. Although it may be tempting to try and leave assets to family members by writing your own will, doing so just might have unintended and troubling consequences.

A recent American Bar Association examination of do-it-yourself estate planning documents concluded that these products often did not achieve the person's original intent. Because a will establishes an enduring legacy, precision in the drafting and execution of the document is of the utmost importance.

Drafting mistakes and problems with fulfilling the many formal requirements for wills may lead to challenges in court. Ambiguity in language can cause confusion among heirs. Lack of clarity can also lead to hostility between family members, and, in the worst-case scenario, lengthy lawsuits can occur. What seems like a cheaper option at the time can lead to costly litigation and family conflict down the road. Unfortunately in these cases, the will that was meant to simplify the administration of the estate instead ends up complicating everything.

People create wills out of the desire to ensure that last wishes are carried out, heirs are spared confusion and conflict and extra expenses are avoided. All of these goals are best carried out with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can help clarify estate planning options and make sure that documents meet the legal requirements and clearly express a person's intentions.

Source: Forbes, "Is do-it-yourself estate planning a valid option?" Bernard A. Krooks, May 17, 2012.

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My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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