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Do it Yourself (DIY) Estate Planning in Florida [Why to Avoid]

Warning triangle to symbolize the risks of do it yourself estate planning

Do it yourself (DIY) estate planning in Florida, through using on line forms or resources from non-lawyer websites, is a path to avoid for many reasons. 

This article will touch on those reasons AND will highlight the benefits of working with an experienced estate planning attorney.  In the world of Florida estate planning, I cross paths with many entrepreneurial “self sufficient” people. While I have huge respect for self made people, one of the biggest traps that self made “doers” fall into is the temptation of handling your own legal affairs through Do it yourself (DIY) estate planning in Florida and this is especially true in the Florida estate planning arena.

The issue of do it yourself (DIY) estate planning in Florida is important in large part due to the internet and the availability of legal forms for every occasion. Its rather simple to find a quick and inexpensive way to get common estate planning forms such as a Florida revocable living trust, a last will and testament in Florida or a Florida advance healthcare directive.  It may be particularly important to avoid a do it yourself (DIY) last will in Florida because of the strict formalities of executing a will.

Make no mistake, LegalZoom and similar providers are multi million dollar companies firing off legal forms in droves with no lawyer involved in almost every case.

Why to Avoid Self Help Estate Planning in Florida? 

To many, do it yourself (DIY) estate planning in Florida appears to be an expedient and cost effective option and yet in reality this choice is often catastrophic.

For example, simply setting up a trust or filling out a deed on LegalZoom does NOTHING to help your estate avoid probate in Florida without some other important legal steps.

Another example, is when setting up cheap online form documents, folks are NOT counseled about important issues such as selecting the right successor trustee in Florida in such a way as to limit potential Florida trust litigation disputes AND plan for a smooth Florida trust administration.

You may have heard the expression, if you want to save money, hire a professional. This principal rings true for most in estate planning and every area of legal expertise.

The Benefits of Experience from a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer

We all know that the reputation of lawyers can be a bit notorious and It is true that sometimes lawyers earn a bad rep. However, there is every reason in the world to hire an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer to assist in preparing your Florida estate plan.

Young law students are put through rigorous mental training just to prepare them for the state bar exam. The bar exam is then the right of passage to qualify the lawyer to advice members of the public of legal issues. The bar exam is also geared to training a lawyer to apply in depth legal analysis to the client’s specific situation in order to give proper legal advice. Add a significant amount of experience in a particular practice area to the equation and you have legal insight and perspective based upon actual life events that the lawyer has dealt with repeatedly.

The key is that by the time you visit with your chosen lawyer, he or she has been rigorously prepared to consider all aspects your legal concern. Just applying common sense, the average non-lawyer will have none of the above when attempting to handle his/her own legal concerns. It’s a bit like trying to drywall your own house by printing out some on-line instructions only worse because the stakes are higher and the consequences of messing it up are worse than a bad drywall hanging job.

I have observed the consequences for mishandled legal affairs to be in the tens of thousands of dollars lost along with the misery experienced by loved ones left to pick up the pieces of a bad plan.

The Florida Lawyer’s Ethical Commitment To Help People

On a positive note, I have found that most of my lawyer colleagues are ready and willing to serve clients with the highest integrity and a true commitment to helping and protecting your best interests.

The “take away” here is just a reminder to be wary of the “self help” products out there and carefully consider your options before embarking in do it yourself (DIY) estate planning in Florida. Remember that on line providers are simply trying to sell a product and have no obligation to make sure it works to protect you and your loved ones.

The simple difference and what to consider when hiring a lawyers is to find a trusted advisor who is committed to protecting you and your loved ones.

Steve Gibbs, Esq.

This is an updated version of an original article dated March 30, 2015. 

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