There are some things you should not do on your own

There are some things you should not do on your own

Kelly M. Appleyard Keystone The Greater Law

I’m a big fan of Pinterest. I have plates and boards of proven recipes, canning and freezing instructions, craft projects, crochet patterns, gardening tips, and more. I learned how to crochet and do some other miscellaneous projects from our online video lessons.

One of the most interesting things about the internet is that we are using the latest technology to teach ourselves the skills our great-grandfathers and great-grandfathers knew, and which were in danger of dying a generation or two after buying everything pre-made. The internet has given rise to the “do it yourself” or “do it yourself” as bloggers like to call it.

Doing it yourself is a source of pride. It’s exciting when you make something. It may save you money if you can grow your own produce in your home garden instead of buying it at the store. Sometimes doing it yourself means doing it better. A locally sourced alpaca winter hat may be better quality than one you can buy at a store, and you feel good about it every time you use it. The donuts you made from scratch may taste better than a box mix, or they may contain healthy ingredients. You can even compete and win prizes at local fairs, like our Kathy Gingrich did recently with some locally grown vegetables and homemade jams and jellies.

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Sometimes something you do on your own can go wrong. Messing around is inevitable. It is part of the learning process that you will get it wrong. Your first crochet project will be lopsided. Your first attempt at cake decorating will be messy. This is okay. You can laugh at donuts that look a little wild. There is no harm. You can learn from your mistakes and try again.

However, some DIY projects have higher risks.

Not long ago, after encouraging my success in other do-it-yourself projects, I set out to fix a leaky toilet myself. I went to the hardware store and found a universal toilet set for only $20 – way less than it would cost to hire a plumber. I took it home, opened it, and … saw very little resemblance to the old one that needed to be replaced. I looked at the instructions, which seemed a lot more complicated than I expected. Then I went to the Internet, DIY Help Haven, and found a video tutorial.

I watched a video of a professional handyman going through the process of installing the same toilet set I purchased. I’ve learned that the “universal” set may not actually fit every model. Additional parts may be required. You may need to use a hacksaw to cut a portion to size. At each step, describe how something might go wrong. It can flood your home, crack a tank, or sewage back into your home. These are expensive errors.

I eventually decided not to do it myself, and I’m glad I did. Turns out I would have needed another part to make the kit compatible. Even if I didn’t make any of the most costly mistakes, I certainly would have taken more time on the project. I would have been without this bathroom for several days, maybe even longer. I could have incurred more expenses than I initially expected. I would definitely have a miserable time with that. A professional plumber who got the project right in less than an hour was worth every penny, and may have saved me money in the long run.

The do-it-yourself movement makes it easier to undervalue service providers. If you imagine you can do anything yourself, why pay someone else to do it? The reason is that there is a cost to delay and a cost to doing it wrong. The value of an experienced service provider lies in their knowledge, experience, and ability to correctly complete a complex task the first time.

As a senior solicitor, I’ve met a number of people who thought they could do it themselves and, unfortunately, thought they were wrong. The Internet is full of forms and instructions for every kind of task, including estate planning and long-term care planning. However, this form or guideline that you found online may not comply with current law, and may not be compatible with the laws of your state.

The law is technical and ever-evolving. Each state has its own set of laws. Even when laws and regulations are applicable nationwide, each state can and will interpret them differently. Different counties within the same state may have their exact interpretations, too.

The problem with doing it yourself in this area is that the cost of error is very high, and you may not know you made a mistake until it is too late. Some examples are:

  • People who thought they could manage their finances on their own, never created a financial power of attorney, and then had a stroke and couldn’t access or understand their financial accounts
  • People who thought they could make their own caregiver arrangements were penalized for payments to their children
  • People who have given too much to their children and then were unable to qualify for Medicaid to help cover the cost of long-term care
  • People who thought they could do Medicaid for their parents spend themselves, then were criminally investigated for their mistakes

These are expensive errors. The average petty cash for skilled nursing care in Pennsylvania is over $14,000 per month. If you try to do your own planning and get it wrong, it could cost your family a lot. Even if you can do it right, it will take longer to do it yourself and this delay is costly. There are some things you should never “make yourself”. If you would like to seek assistance from an attorney who specializes in elder law, call Keystone Elder Law at 717-697-3223.

Find additional articles and resources on Or join their Facebook group for “Later on Life Planning and Resources.” Keystone Elder Law PC is located in Mechanicsburg. Call 717-697-3223 for a free telephone consultation with a Care Coordinator.

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