Some people in New York may be considering do-it-yourself estate planning because it seems cheaper and easier than working with an attorney. However, the costs from errors caused by using DIY forms can be much greater and can lead to confusion and litigation over asset distribution.

This was the case in a dispute over an estate that ended up in the Florida Supreme Court. A woman made her will using DIY forms, but those forms did not include a residuary or any other type of clause addressing how any assets not named in the will should be distributed. She listed all of her property and said that it should pass to her sister. Her brother was supposed to be the secondary beneficiary.

The woman outlived her sister and inherited her sister’s property. Unfortunately, she did not update her will. With no residuary clause in the will addressing how additional property would be distributed, the woman’s two nieces were able to claim a portion of the estate. However, this was preceded by expensive litigation between the brother and the nieces. The court could not make the assumption that she did not intend the nieces to inherit anything. A number of other problems related to addiction, divorce, creditors and more can also arise in DIY estate planning even with relatively simple estates.

An attorney might suggest strategies for dealing with these types of problems. For example, if a person is concerned about how a beneficiary might waste an inheritance because of an addiction, a trust could be created. Distributions could be made to the person at certain intervals, tied to certain conditions or at the discretion of the trustee. Trusts may also be set up to protect assets from creditors or divorce and even in case of lawsuits.