We all love stories about the do-it-yourselfer. TV sitcoms, Darwin awards, jokes, and so on use them as punch lines. My favorite involved a conversation I had with a dentist. His patient tried to extract his own tooth with a power drill.

The do-it-yourselfer stars in my law practice, but the results are no laughing matter. People buy “will-in-a-box” packages and follow the instructions. They may work, and they may not. You won’t know if they work until you try to use them. You won’t know if they should work unless you have a lawyer determine the same. Having said that, I have never had a client bring in estate planning documents drafted by a non-lawyer that were done correctly or thoroughly enough.

What's The Cost of Writing Your Own Will

Last Will and Testament

A man brought in a Will he had written himself. He asked me how much I would charge to review the document to ensure it was correct. I quoted a price. He looked surprised, then asked how much it was to write one from scratch. I quoted the same price. There are two reasons: (1) it takes me the same amount of time, and (2) my liability is the same. Liability is key. If a lawyer screws up, you may have grounds to sue them (it’s called legal malpractice.) If the do-it-yourselfer gets it wrong, he discovers that the document doesn’t work after it’s late to have another one done. (Incapacity or death preclude you from signing documents with binding legal effect.) I give the man credit: his gut told him that he needed legal help. His will would not have held up.

A will-in-a-box handles standard situations, but life throws curveballs. A lawyer versed in probate and estate planning knows the law in that area, and therefore can recommend which legal tools to use to best achieve a desired result. The lawyer tailors the content of a given document to suit your needs. Contested guardianship and probate matters can consume six figures in legal expenses, not to mention the time, stress, and heartache involved. A full estate plan for a family, in contrast, can be done for as little as $1,500. Can you afford to screw this up?

Contact An Experienced Dallas Estate Planning Attorney

Whether you're planning your own estate, trying to understand a parent's estate plan, caring for an aging relative or facing probate, our experienced Dallas estate planning and probate attorneys can help you navigate the process and safeguard your family's future. Contact Smith Klein Law today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Colin Smith
North Texas Estate Planning & Probate Attorney
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