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Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning: Do I really need a lawyer? - Part One of Two

A recent Wall Street Journal article makes the case that you don't always need to see a lawyer to develop an estate plan. We live in a do-it-yourself economy and I can tell you as a new homeowner, my husband and I have done a lot of renovations in the home ourselves, instead of hiring professionals. On a personal level, I understand the appeal of doing it yourself.

In this post, I will run through which do-it-yourself option I emphatically recommend, which is client self-education. In my next post, I will discuss the do-it-yourself web options I do not recommend, and why.

I am passionate about client education. I have several colleagues who feel the same. Maybe it's a characteristic of this type of law practice. If you are mapping out your estate plan, then online law libraries, blogs, and books on estate planning can help you learn the landscape. Harry Margolis and Alexander Bove, both Massachusetts lawyers, have inexpensive and easy-to-read books on estate planning, accessible here and here.

Teaching yourself the basics can help you with the planning and execution phases of estate planning. I tend to provide a lot of information to clients during an office conference. The experience is less overwhelming if you've read up a little, although there are downsides to that, if you've read something that's not correct -- say, a blog post by a California lawyer, where the law is different. In general, though, doing some reading can help you make up your mind about what you want and make the most of your time with your lawyer.

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