Toyota is currently running a series of ads for their service centers advising Toyota drivers that using genuine Toyota parts and having their cars serviced by Toyota-trained technicians is a much better decision than having ‘just anyone’ do it. In one ad, the Toyota driver imagines what could go wrong if he hires ‘just any carpenter’- it’s not pretty. In another commercial, a couple watches as their living room is destroyed after an electrician rewires everything with ‘stuff that will work fine.’ Toyota’s point is that ‘just right’ is better than ‘fine’. The same is true when it comes to your estate plan.
There is a proliferation of material on the internet purporting to make the viewer an expert on everything from cutting your own hair, changing the oil in your car, and yes, writing your own Will (I’m not going to share a link for this because I care about you). While there are some projects that do not require a specialist, there are others that most assuredly should be undertaken by an experienced professional – estate planning falls into the latter category.
Here at Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC, we meet with people who come to us with estate plans that were prepared by attorneys who do not concentrate their practice in the area of estate planning or even some clients who prepared their own estate plan. The reason for this is often cost-savings – ‘my cousin is a personal injury attorney and he did our Will for free’ or ‘I bought a Will form on a legal website for $20’. This is almost always a case of being ‘penny-wise and pound foolish’ because the cost of having an improper estate plan is high –not just in money – but in the toll it takes on surviving family members.
Examples of poorly drafted or ‘do-it-yourself’ estate plan fails that we have seen include:
- A Will that named one beneficiary without stating to whom the estate should pass if that beneficiary died, and in fact, the beneficiary did die before the testator who did not update his Will before he passed away.
- A Will that did not grant the Personal Representative (executor) the authority to sell real estate, thus necessitating a special petition to the court to obtain permission to sell which was both costly and time consuming.
- A Power of Attorney that was not durable and as such became void when the maker became incapacitated, thereby requiring a court appointed conservator (expensive and time consuming).
- A Will that left the assets in the estate to a Trust that did not exist.
- A married couple whose general practice attorney failed to advise them about simple planning that would have saved their family more than $100,000 in estate taxes.
Sadly, I could go on and on.
Working with an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney to prepare a plan that is appropriate for your unique situation and designed to meet your goals is not free and not cheap. However, the savings that are achieved by avoiding probate, reducing or eliminating estate taxes, or preserving assets from spenddown on long-term care costs is usually many times over the cost of the planning. Don’t settle for ‘just any estate plan’ – work with an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney to create the plan that is ‘just right’ for you.
Attorney Suzanne R. Sayward is a partner with the Dedham firm of Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC which focuses on advising its clients in the areas of estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. She is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, a private organization whose standards for certification are not regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This article is not intended to provide legal advice or create or imply an attorney-client relationship. No information contained herein is a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney. For more information visit www.ssbllc.com or call 781/461-1020.
© 2021 Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC