DIY or Not: Wills and Estate Planning - dummies

DIY or Not: Wills and Estate Planning

By Gabrielle Karol

When it comes to the people you love, you’d do almost anything to ensure they’re taken care of.

Even fill out forms.

And if you have loved ones, there are a few crucial financial forms you will need to fill out to protect those you care about.

Luckily, you don’t always need to see an attorney — or pay expensive fees. Some forms are so simple you can download them and fill them out yourself within minutes, at no cost.

Then again, some forms — and some family situations — are complicated enough that you definitely should enlist professional help. Yana Feldman, an estate planning attorney based in Garden City, New York, tells you when to DIY and when to call an attorney.

Here’s when Feldman says you should call a lawyer like her — and when you can easily DIY for free:

Don’t call an attorney if. . .

You’re looking for a living will.

And you should be. Regardless of age and health, every adult in the U.S. should fill out a living will, health care proxy and HIPAA authorization. A living will specifies the medical treatment you want, in case you can’t voice it yourself. This would prevent an expensive and heartrending experience for your family (think Terry Schiavo). Also, designate someone you trust as a health care proxy who can carry out your medical wishes, and sign a HIPAA authorization form, which would provide her with access to your medical records in case of emergency.

How to DIY:

  1. Learn the regulations for living wills and proxies for your state here.

  2. Search online for your state’s living will and proxy forms (search “[your state] + living will form”).

  3. Fill out the forms and have them signed by the proxy you’ve chosen as well as any witnesses your state requires.

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