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Top 3 Mistakes in DIY Estate Planning


Robots deliver packages. Robots clean hospital rooms. Robots diffuse bombs. Robots feed pets. Robots can be great, huh? Robots CAN’T create customized, comprehensive estate plans. I’ve seen them try, and it’s a mess. Roboplans created by an online program can only work properly in a few instances, and you won’t know if yours works until it’s too late.

Roboplans don’t understand TX community property laws. Most people don’t really know what defines community versus separate property in Texas. It’s complicated and nuanced. Even Texas lawyers who don’t regularly practice family or estate law probably can’t even get it right every time. (I’ll even admit that I use a cheat-sheet to double check myself for heirship distributions in blended families.) Just because you know what you mean when you say that your “separate property” should go to “your kids”, you can’t be sure that the court will interpret it the same way. Roboplans can’t analyze your assets and advise you on the best way to word specific bequests. If you do it wrong, the court will determine who gets what.

Roboplans don’t include contingency planning. An online program will ask you who gets your assets, and who will oversee the settling of your estate. Things it probably won’t ask you: What if a beneficiary is disabled when you pass away? What if a beneficiary predeceases you and their kids are minors? Who gets the remainder of the life estate for your home? Does the person you named as executor qualify under the law? Have you designated a beneficiary for the remainder of your estate after your specific bequests are made? Do you need to specify that your executor has the authority to sell your real property without requirement of bond or dependent administration? Estate plans lacking contingency options are a disaster waiting to happen.

Roboplans can’t difference between “can” and “should.” If you look in the fine print of online estate planning programs, they all contain some version of “this does not constitute legal advice”. An online program will let you leave a quarter of a million dollars to an 18-year-old. That doesn’t mean you should. An online program will let you name a felon as your executor. That doesn’t mean you should. An online program will let you leave $10,000 for the care of your pet. That doesn’t mean you should. An online program will let you give a specific bequest of your grandmother’s antique couch to your out-of-state cousin. That doesn’t mean you should. “Can” and “should” are two different things. “Can” leads to costly mistakes.

Crain & Wooley has seen the heartache and monetary burden caused by doing estate planning via Roboplans. Doing it right the first time, by working with qualified attorneys, saves your loved ones time and money in the long run. Contact us to find out what kind of estate plan is perfect for your situation.

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