I often hear people say that they got their "wills taken care of" by their uncle/college roommate/sister's husband, who is a lawyer. This is one of the most dangerous situations that I ever encounter, because 1) 99.9% of the time the wills are insufficient to meet the needs of the family, and 2) the family has a false sense of security because a lawyer has prepared the documents.
What? How can this be?
This can be, because estate planning is a highly specialized field, and yet, many lawyers who spend most of their time practicing family law, personal injury, or some other area of law, feel perfectly comfortable using a standard will form when their clients or friends ask the lawyer if he can "do our wills." The lawyer usually knows enough about estate planning to know that if you have a few million dollars worth of assets, that you should see an estate planning attorney to talk about taxes, but they probably know very little about your state's Estate or Inheritance Tax, probate, or any issues that will be unique to your family. It is not malpractice when a lawyer has an Engagement Agreement saying essentially that the client asked for a will and the lawyer prepared one.
Just because it is not malpractice, however, that does not make it a workable plan for your family.
The proper way to approach estate planning is to seek a lawyer's counsel so that you can 1) learn about what things would look like for your family if something happened to you, and 2) find out what you can do to avoid any unpleasant scenarios. It is only after these two things have happened that you can tell your lawyer what type of plan you would like to create for your family. If your lawyer is not an estate planning lawyer, he will not be able to tell you the answers to 1 and 2, just like if you are injured in an accident, I will not be able to tell you what issues you face in litigation and how you should proceed. I would only know enough to say, "Yes, you were injured and it looks like so-and-so may be at fault. Let me introduce you to my friend, who is a personal injury attorney."
If you live in Oregon, and your will or other estate planning documents were prepared by a friend or family member who is not an estate planning lawyer, it would be wise of you to contact an estate planning attorney who will review the documents for you and get you answers to those questions in the preceding paragraph.
To your family's health & prosperity,
P.S. Want to get started on the most important planning you'll ever do for your family? Give our office a call at (503) 235-5150 to get started. You'll be glad you did.