8 Reasons You Need a Lawyer to Write Your Estate Plan
A common question I get all the time is, “Can I write my own will? Do I really need an attorney to draft my will?” It’s a fair question. In this age, there’s limitless information, which makes it feel like you can bypass the “pros” for a cheaper, simpler fix. So, yes, you can write your own will, download a will from the internet or even buy one from your local stationary shop.
The question, though, isn’t whether you can write your own will, with some research surely you can. The question is instead: should you write your own will? And, if so, will it be valid and hold up in court? To this point, hypothetically, with lots of study, you could perform a medical procedure on yourself (which you most definitely shouldn’t!), but should you do so and will it turn out well?
This article is not a sales pitch. We want to emphasise the point that you should hire a competent lawyer well-versed in estate planning, will drafting, administration of deceased estates and probate law. The plain truth is you need a lawyer to help you with your estate planning. Here are eight reasons why.
REASON #1: YOU NEED MORE THAN JUST A WILL
Always remember, and never forget, you don’t just need a will, you need an estate plan. While the two terms “will” and “estate plan” are often used interchangeably, this is wrong, as they are two different things. An estate plan is a set of legal documents to prepare for your death. A will is just one of those legal documents, albeit an important one. So, you don’t need to draft just one legal document and get it right, but several.
REASON #2: SAVE TIME AND ENERGY
Handing off the complex task of drafting a thorough estate plan to a responsible professional will alleviate an immense burden on you. It’s simply a lot of work to write an estate plan.
REASON #3: SAVE MONEY
Without an estate plan, you and your estate may end up paying more in the long run in professional fees, court costs, and taxes. Using a flat rate with an attorney will be much more straightforward and to your long-term economic advantage.
An experienced attorney knows where to look and what questions to ask to help you secure additional tax and financial benefits.
REASON #4: IT’S COMPLICATED
I’ve mentioned this before, but this stuff is hard. It’s part art and part science. Every phrase, every word, can undo an estate plan. Plus, the law is dynamic and changing all the time. The South African government, agencies like the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Master of the High Court and courts at every level are changing the rules of the game constantly.
REASON #5: ONE SHOT
How many chances do you get to get your estate plan right? One! There is no second chance. Don’t get me wrong, you can always invest in a new estate plan if you realise your DIY attempt at an estate plan stinks. But, you shouldn’t have to if you get it right the first time! And, if something happens to you before you have the chance to make said second estate plan you’re out of luck. It’s done.
In addition, your estate plan will probably need updates and revisions following any big life changes or amendments to any applicable laws that you’ll want an attorney to help you address.
REASON #6: OBJECTIVITY
Along with expertise, lawyers offer objectivity. By working with a lawyer, you’re going to bring that extra voice of reason to bear on current and future estate planning needs. Is it a good idea to leave your entire estate to your dog? Is your 18 year old child truly mature enough to handle your savings which you have put away over the course of your life? A lawyer can give you direct, unvarnished, and unbiased advice.
REASON #7: THE ONLY CONSTANT IN YOUR LIFE IS CHANGE
As your life changes, your estate plan must adapt. Perhaps you move to a new country. Maybe you have a kid and then some more kids. The kids grow up and have kids of their own. Throughout, perhaps you marry or divorce. Your financial situation significantly changes. All these life events, and many more, necessitate changes to your estate plan. You need a lawyer to tell you when your estate plan needs a tune-up and to perform the tune-up.
REASON #8: LAWYERS THEMSELVES!
It’s funny to think about, but nonetheless true. After you die, who will determine if your estate planning documents are valid? Lawyers! The Master of the High Court is going to review your estate plan documents. The Master of the High Court will determine whether your documents meet the necessary requirements. You don’t want to leave it up to this individual to try and figure out if your DIY documents are valid.
Have I convinced you? Or do you still want to go it alone?
Feel free to contact Benaters at any time to discuss further why you need a lawyer to draft your estate plan.