Do It Yourself?

By J.C. Bailey

Some of the most popular shows on television are the ones in which people make improvements to their homes with the help of a professional. In some cases, it’s a kitchen or a bathroom. On other programs they turn their yard into an entirely different place. I enjoy seeing things improved, and I love the fantasy that it can be done in a 30-minute time slot. My personal experience with home improvement has been dramatically different than the shows I’ve watched, though. The time, talent, tools and expertise for these projects has never turned out to be quite as easy as I had hoped. Professionals know things that I don’t know. They know the way things have been done, changes in technology or standards that have changed, and they know how to take the specific challenges of my project and address them correctly the first time.

When you decide to take care of your estate planning or probate matter yourself, you are flirting with disaster. You do not have the many years of experience with finances and family dynamics to make the best choices. You do not have the background to know if a document is outdated or based on law that has changed. You can’t know if the document you are trying to use is generic enough to work in most states but will allow you to deal with problems specific to your jurisdiction. You don’t know what you don’t know.

When you do it yourself, you can’t be up to date on changes in the law or practice in a particular court. It is said that no Texan is safe as long as the Texas legislature is in session. Several new provisions went into effect earlier this month that might affect your drafting project or probate matter. How would you know? I depend on my doctor for medical advice, my CPA for tax advice and, although licensed to do so, do not practice law outside my areas of expertise. Life in general and the practice of law in particular is getting more complex. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Having taken on a few projects that crashed and burned, I have had the experience of paying more to clean up my well-intentioned, do-it-yourself debacle than it would have cost to hire a professional in the first place. Let’s think about this. Would it not make sense to at least get a bid from a professional? Estate planning and probate work from an experienced professional may be required by law in some jurisdictions, but even if you could try to wing it on your own, can you rest assured it is done correctly in accordance with current law and tailored to meet the needs of your family? Have I mentioned that you don’t know what you don’t know? I’ve helped thousands of people with issues in this area and I would be happy to help you.

-J.C. Bailey

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