We all love a little DIY magic, where that old table gets a new lease on life, or the latest internet life-hack saves a bundle of money on household items or cleaning supplies. But, where should we draw the DIY line in the sand and seek professional help?

Waukesha Christmas Parade Attacker Goes Pro Se

In November of 2021, a Wisconsin man drove his SUV through the Waukesha Christmas Parade, killing 6 and injuring at least 60 others. Almost a year later, he chose to fire his attorney and represent himself for his criminal trial in October 2022. Just because one has the legal right to pro se, or self representation, does not mean this is a good idea. It didn’t turn out well for him, and in our experience pro se rarely does for anyone.

Do Not Do It Yourself When…

Do it yourself may save you money on home improvements, or cost you extra money if the new dishwasher you installed floods your kitchen and basement during your vacation, costing you thousands of dollars in flooring and structural repairs. So when does DIY save you money and when does it cost you? 

We recommend considering the long-term ramifications if your DIY happens to not be done correctly. What would it cost (or what would be lost or damaged) if it is done incorrectly? If your crown falls out and it is not properly repaired by a competent dental professional, you may risk a serious infection, and damage to your bone tissue that could require expensive surgery. Trying to remove a large tree from your property could result in property damage, injury, or death. Pro Se legal matters frequently lead to expensive and unforeseen problems down the road.

When DIY Legal Services Go Wrong

As estate planning attorneys, we have seen many examples of people trying DIY estate planning. This typically goes poorly for the people left behind when a loved one dies. Amidst the turmoil of loss, beneficiaries additionally find themselves embroiled in estate battles and lawsuits. Pro Se evictions frequently cannot hold up in a court of law because the landlord or homeowner did not do everything properly. These costly mistakes typically result in hiring a lawyer after the fact, which is why we recommend beginning with a reputable law firm, rather than trying to handle legal matters on your own. The peace of mind is worth the financial investment.

Conclusion: Sometimes it’s Best to Call a Professional

Whether or not it is smart to DIY something probably lands somewhere on a sliding scale. Many tasks can be competently done by almost anyone who can follow instructions. However, it is one of the most difficult parts of our job as estate planning attorneys to see the pain caused by poor planning, DIY estate plans gone wrong, or no estate planning at all. 

Although we do not provide legal advice on this blog, we would recommend meeting with a professional when you are in doubt about your abilities, or when the stakes are high.

To listen to our full podcast about DIY Legal Services click here.