We like DIY sites like Legal Zoom at Generation Law. Why? Because they often mean more work for us, so we can fix the expensive legal problems these services cause for clients.
But we like you, too, which is why we’ll tell you right now: Don’t DIY your estate planning. It may seem like a time and money-saver now, but risking your family’s future isn’t worth it.
Here, we share stories of do-it-yourself wills and other legal documents gone horribly wrong.
1. A power-of-attorney form with no powers
One couple chose to use a $6 power-of-attorney form they found online, but once the husband became disabled and entered a nursing home, the bank would not accept the document. Looking at the form, we realized it wasn’t valid once someone became incapacitated. The irony wasn’t lost on us: One of the main reasons for a power of attorney is to handle someone’s affairs if they become disabled. The couple ended up needing to do a guardianship, a much more expensive process that cost them valuable time, frustration, legal fees and interest on overdue nursing home bills.
2. On the hook for Medicaid benefits
Medicaid has strict eligibility rules, one of which says that any gifts a person gives within five years of applying for Medicaid eligibility will count against them. Without the advice of an elder law attorney, you can easily lose out on thousands or even tens of thousands in Medicaid benefits. That’s what happened to Paula Mallery and Ron Stanton in this New York case.
Ron withdrew $141,000 from joint accounts held by him and his longtime friend Paula. When Paula fell in her home and was admitted to a nursing home, she was ineligible for that amount in Medicaid benefits. If Paula and Ron had gone to an elder law attorney before making these transfers, they would have avoided the headaches and costs of losing out on Medicaid benefits and taking their case to court.
3. DIY will leaves girlfriend with nothing
In another Generation Law case, a man downloaded a will off the internet and left everything, including his Chicago two-flat, to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he failed to sign the will correctly, and the will was invalidated. The family kicked his girlfriend out of a home she had lived in for 30 years, and she received nothing from his estate.
Talk to a lawyer when estate planning
Bottom line? Don’t let this happen to you. Get in touch with our team to talk about your family’s estate planning needs – and save yourself time, money and frustration.