On June 29, 2010, U.S. News & World Report published The Dangers of DIY Estate Planning, by Kimberly Palmer.
Palmer points out that people disagree on whether estate planning should be done without a practitioner's help:
Almost everyone agrees that for people with complicated family or legal situations involving children from multiple spouses or great wealth, professional help is the way to go. But for people with relatively straightforward needs—a will for a single person without much money, for example—there's more room for disagreement.
Palmer quotes the general counsel for LegalZoom, who states that people “can be empowered to handle common legal matters on their own.”
Palmer also quoted me for the opposite perspective. I think that it very dangerous for people to attempt their own estate planning. There are many factors that people might overlook, and people might not know the legal effects of a question that a DIY estate planning software presents them.
Palmer refers to a cautionary tale that Leanna Hamill writes about on her blog: The Dangers of Do It Yourself, A Cautionary Tale (1/13/09). My previous blog entry, LegalZoom and the dangers of DIY estate planning (5/25/10), shows that many practitioners have written about the dangers of DIY estate planning.
Palmer also quotes Deborah L. Jacobs. Palmer writes, Jacobs “suggests reading up on estate planning before scheduling an appointment with a lawyer, so you go into the meeting prepared and can skip much of the introductory conversation on estate law.”
I second Jacobs’s advice. Her book, Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide, is a very good guide on the subject.