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DIY Estate Planning in Maine Has Its Risks

Posted by Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. | Jan 13, 2021

Concerns about health and mortality during the pandemic have led to a greater awareness of estate planning. Staying safe at home while you create an estate plan has also become easier than ever. Under an emergency order from Governor Mills, Mainers can have documents notarized remotely.  

Legally, you don't need a lawyer to help you prepare an estate plan. You can arrange for your assets to pass by non-probate transfer yourself. You may also draft a “holographic will,” one in your own handwriting, which could be valid.  

Do-it-yourself (DIY) estate planning can be convenient and save you money. However, it can fail to cover every circumstance. In the long run, any mistakes you make may be costly. Some of the most common errors that can occur include:  

  • Invalid documentation - Probate laws vary from state to state and change frequently. Forms you download online or draft yourself might not fully comply with Maine law. The State of Maine offers a statutory will form, available through Registers of Probate offices and online. To complete it correctly, however, an estate planning attorney's guidance may be helpful. You should also ensure that you sign your forms and have them witnessed properly. If any part of your documents doesn't follow Maine law, your assets might not go to your chosen beneficiaries, but to “heirs  at law” – usually, your next of kin. As a result, your wishes might not be fully carried out.
  • Incomplete plans - Your DIY documents could lack some information or fail to consider every scenario, such as the need to  protect assets from creditors. Especially in complex matters, an estate planning attorney can help you think through everything, including what may happen later.
  • Outdated information - Typically, estate planning isn't a "one and done" solution. You should update your plan at least every three years or after major life events, such as the birth of a child, a divorce, or retirement. Failure to update your documents regularly may cause problems later.
  • Lack of privacy - If a will must go through probate, information about your assets and final wishes could become public knowledge. With these details, disinherited relatives might decide to contest the will. Fortune hunters may also seek to take advantage. An estate planning attorney can advise you on how to avoid probate to keep your estate private, save money, and prevent court delays.  

These are a few common mistakes you can make when you do your estate planning yourself. During this difficult and uncertain time, you want to ensure your final wishes are clear. You don't want a DIY plan to lead to problems for you or your loved ones later.  

To address your situation properly, your estate plan should suit your needs. An experienced estate planning attorney can create a comprehensive plan to help give you and your family peace of mind. If you need advice about your estate plan, contact us today

About the Author

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq.

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. is the Managing Shareholder at Levey, Wagley, Putman & Eccher, P.A., in Winthrop, Maine. Dan's favorite problem to solve is helping clients figure out how to afford long-term care while having something left for their family.

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