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Do we have to have an attorney for estate planning?

Dallas, TX |

I've seen no-cost wills and other estate planning forms online. We only have one child, so that's pretty straightforward, and I'm not sure that we need an attorney to help us figure this out.


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Attorney answers 4


Great question. I suggest you hire an experienced attorney in the area of estate planning who will advise you as to what type of estate planning you need, if any. I have had clients in the past probating the Will of a loved one who found their Will online. The wills were not well written, not properly executed, and ended up costing the decedents' estates (and ultimately the beneficiaries) a lot of money to make it right. I am a firm believer that you often get what you pay for. Best of luck to you.


The actual documents are not what attorneys provide. You can get free documents anywhere. Attorneys provide counsel and guidance, and help you identify and plan for issues you may not have even thought about.

Most people learn one way or another that they need a will. Seems straight forward enough, right? In fact, as an estate planning attorney myself, most people start out by telling me all they need is "a simple will" because their estate is very straightforward. They usually want everything to go to their spouse when they die and then on to their children after that. However, most people I talk to never think about the issues like asset protection for surviving spouses, protection so your child won't lose the inheritance you leave them in a divorce or lawsuit, probate avoidance, planning for incapacity to avoid guardianship, remarriage protection so a second spouse can't walk off with everything you leave your spouse, etc.

There are a host of issues a good estate planning attorney will discuss with you that you may not even be aware of. A fill in the blanks will is not going to educate you on the estate planning issues you need to address, and is not a substitute for competent legal advice. To be straight forward, the reality is, if you attempt to do it yourself, things probably won't end up the way you want and it will cost you and your heirs a lot more money in the long run.

My advice to you is to at least set up an initial consultation with an estate planning attorney. Initial consultations are usually offered free of charge. A consultation will give you the chance to discuss your estate planning goals and learn about some of the potential issues you may not have been aware of. Once you have a consultation you can make an educated decision on whether you'll hire an attorney or attempt to DIY with online documents.

Hope this helps!


The decision to hire an estate planner has less to do with obtaining a perfect document and more about the experience to identify issues that you may not realize you have.

Does your child have special needs? If so you may need a special needs trusts.

What happens when you are disabled? Are you protected? Do you have health care power of attorneys, living wills, hipaa, and or a revocable living trust with disability protection.

What if your children file for bankruptcy or divorce after inheriting assets? (can you protect their funds?) If you placed it in a properly drafted revocable living trust you could.

What if your child develops drug or alcohol problems as they age? Have you considered and planned for that possibility?

Who are you going to call when you pass away? When you die do you want your wife to go to a phone book or call a trusted family attorney to help walk her through the process.

Hiring an estate planner is about building a relationship based on trust that will last your entire life. They will guide you through expected life events and help keep your family together when
the unexpected happens. The relationship is where the value lies, not the documents.

Disclaimer: The foregoing answer does not constitute legal advice, is provided for informational and educational purposes only for persons interested in the subject matter. Each situation is fact specific and may be subject to state specific laws. Without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem fully. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. No Tax Advice - Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment is not intended to constitute a comprehensive and complete tax consideration analysis, and may not be used by the taxpayer to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency, nor for the purpose of promoting, marketing or making recommendations to other persons on any tax-related matters.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


Well stated.


Well, you dont really need a dentist to pull a tooth either.

But at least if you mess up the tooth, you will still be around to get your mouth fixed by the dentist once you wise up.

With the will, you will be gone and what is done wont be undoable.

No legal representation exists by virtue of this answer. Consult your attorney. Licensed to practice law in Indiana and Illinois. Circular 230 Disclosure: any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.