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Why going it alone is not best when it comes to estate planning

Many St. Paul residents pride themselves on being able to do things on their own. In fixing up the house, for example, individuals can save money and gain a sense of accomplishment by learning how to repair items themselves instead of hiring a professional.

While this is all well and good for certain tasks around the house, there are other areas in a person's life where professional help is highly recommended in lieu of going it alone. Going to the doctor, for instance, is something most individuals are readily prepared to do because they are not equipped to self-diagnose their own medical conditions.

So too, is the case when it comes to drafting wills. Some individuals may want to try to make their own will rather than working with an estate planning attorney. This is not typically the best course to follow, however, because individuals may not understand all of the formal requirements that are in place in order for a will to be considered valid under the eyes of the law.

A holographic will, for example, is one in which a person handwrites the document to spell out his or her wishes. Whether this document is recognized as valid depends on what state a person is in, however, as many states do not recognize the validity of these wills, or at least require there to be certain provisions included in the will in order for it to be valid.

Individuals may also not realize that estate planning is about finding a plan that is tailored to each person's individual needs. Accordingly, what works well for someone else may not be the best for the individual.

Ultimately, by taking short cuts and going it alone, individuals may end up with a will that is not valid under the law, or that is the subject of a later will contest because of its execution. This can result in substantial costs down the road, as well as the very real possibility that the person's wishes expressed in the invalid will may not be followed by the court. Therefore, it is best to work with an estate planning attorney to ensure the person's wishes are followed and the will is enforced.

Source: North, "Educate yourself on wills, probate," Kevin DeMarrais, March 16, 2014

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