This is the first in my series of estate planning "do's" - lessons that I have learned during my 15 years of practice as an estate planning attorney. First up on the list: Do hire an estate planning attorney.
If you decide to go it on your own when planning your estate, you will be setting yourself and your loved ones up for failure. Why? Because estate planning is a complicated legal process that is based on each person's unique family and financial situations, not to mention the laws of your home state and the laws of any other state where you own real or tangible personal property. In other words, estate planning is not "one size fits all," and generic forms found in a book, on a computer program or on the internet cannot possibly address all of the family dynamics, emotional issues, and legal aspects involved with properly planning your estate.
Only an estate planning attorney can lead you through all of the steps required to complete the estate planning process, from helping you decide who gets what and when they'll get it, to who will be in charge of taking care of you if you become mentally incapacitated and your family after you die, to where the cash will come from to pay your final bills and estate taxes. So go out and hire yourself an estate planning attorney - in the end you and your family will be glad you did.