Do I need a lawyer to help me draft my estate planning documents?
Individuals can draft their own documents. It is also possible to use some of the online websites to generate legal documents. There is nothing that says you must have a lawyer to draft those documents.
Having said this, it is important to understand the precise language of a document can have significant impact on the outcome of your estate planning. Individual words do make a difference. It is very easy to make a mistake which could result in an unintended consequence.
Let's give an example. Suppose, you want your assets to pass to your children from a prior marriage and not to your new spouse. Let's imagine you did not sign any type of prenuptial agreement and you have a will leaving everything to your biological children and nothing to your surviving spouse. You may not realize a surviving spouse, even though he or she is not the biological parent of your children, is entitled to receive a portion of your estate notwithstanding your desire to disinherit him or her as is evidenced by your will or trust.A lawyer with knowledge in the trust and estate area would be able to advise you of this fact. Second marriages are very common this day and age and this is one of many traps which can snare the uninformed.
Yes, lawyers do make a living drafting documents, usually with extreme care, to ensure the wishes of the decedent are fulfilled. Doing so, is not always as easy as some people think. Making a small mistake can land your heirs in estate litigation which is extremely more complex and costly than simply making sure the documents were drafted properly from the start.