Florida Estate Planning: Doing It Yourself vs. Hiring a Lawyer


When preparing an estate plan, you can do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. While either may suit your needs, you should know that doing it yourself often poses certain risks that you may not be willing to take.

Advice from a professional

We asked Sarah E. Peart, an attorney from Tampa Florida whose practice focuses mainly in the areas of wills, trusts, estate planning and real estate law, what advice she would give to someone who is on the fence about having an attorney prepare their estate plan or doing it themselves by purchasing an on-line, fill in the blank kit. Here's what she told us:

I would say you should always have an attorney looking out for your interests. Estate planning laws, tax laws and probate laws are very, very technical and you want to make sure that your interests are protected because there is nothing you can do about it after the fact. An employee of a document preparation business simply does not know the laws, nor can he or she provide legal advice. An instruction manual from an online kit will not adequately advise or protect you either.

You may save a small amount of money at the time, but you stand to lose essentially everything if your documents are invalid or do not adequately reflect your wishes. It's imperative that you have an attorney look over all of your documents and make sure that they comply with current laws. It's also a good idea to have your estate plan reviewed by an attorney annually, and if not every year, then at least during every life changing event.

Choosing the right attorney

If you decide to have an attorney prepare your estate plan, how do you determine which attorney is right for you? Peart gave the following advice, "Well, it's important to get a good feeling from the attorney. Make sure that it's somebody that you can feel comfortable with as you'll have to divulge all of your assets and some very private, personal information. Living wills, healthcare surrogates, and advanced care directives, for example, discuss very personal medical and end of life decisions."

How are estate planning attorneys compensated in Florida?

According to Peart, "Clients are usually charged either by the hour or by a flat fee. In estate planning, I often find that it's easier to just give one flat fee price for a package with several different documents. A flat fee often tends to benefit both the client and the attorney in the area of estate planning."

Estate planning is a very specific area of law that encompasses wills, trusts, health care directives, probate and more. Click here, to contact an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer to discuss your situation.