Everybody loves a bargain. On the other hand, as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” But when it comes to something as important as your estate planning, you don’t want to be “penny wise and dollar foolish.”
Let’s take a look at a couple of reasons why using online document services (or other cheap services) to prepare your estate planning documents is a bad idea.
- There Are No “Do-Overs” With Estate Planning.
First, it is important to keep in mind that you do not get to fix mistakes made in your estate plan once it goes into effect. In other words, when you die, it is too late to make changes or fix mistakes in your plan.
That means that if the documents the online service or other cheap, non-attorney source you used to do your will or trust are incorrect or do not comply with your state’s laws or are outdated or fail to follow all the required legal formalities, or have not covered all the contingencies in your situation— your wishes will not be followed, and your family is out of luck.
There will be no one to help your family and no way to change your inadequate/erroneous documents.
Your assets will not go to the people you wanted them to go to, or, worse yet, your entire estate will be subjected to the time-consuming and expensive probate system. Ultimately, your estate will end up spending more time and money than you would have spent if you had consulted with knowledgeable estate planning counsel.
- Online and Non-Attorney Document Providers Are Not Lawyers.
There is a reason why most lawyers who practice in this area do only trusts and estates law.
Can you guess what it is?
It is that estate planning is a complex area of law. It takes years to develop an expertise in estate planning. As an American Bar Association article on the issue of whether it is advisable to do your own estate planning puts it, “An estate planning lawyer provides more than technical expertise in drafting complicated documents. Most have extensive experience in counseling clients in these most intimate decisions.”
Online document services and non-attorney estate planning services do not have this level of expertise or experience counselling clients.
How could they? They are not attorneys. They merely fill out forms.
Yet the impression most online document services try to create in the minds of consumers is that they are attorneys and that their documents are similar to those of an attorney. They stress how their documents are cheaper than what it would cost you to hire an attorney. Well, there is a reason why attorneys charge more. Attorneys get paid for what they know.
Online document services only know how to fill out forms. They are not lawyers. They are not law firms. They do not know what a trusts and estates attorney knows and they cannot give you legal advice. If your family has special needs or if you are about to make a huge mistake, these services cannot advise you or warn you. Indeed, it would be a crime (practicing law without a license) if they did so.
So do not be fooled by the marketing attempts they make to look like legal counsel. All online document services or other non-attorney services can do is what any well-trained monkey could do: fill out a form.
- Generic Online Forms Are…Well, Generic.
Finally, because the online document providers are not attorneys, they have to make sure that their documents are pretty much “fool proof.” That way it is difficult for individuals who buy their documents to make mistakes when filling them out.
What that means, however, is that the documents online services and other non-attorney services provide are generic documents that apply to everyone and anyone. They are not customized. They are simply one-size-fits-all generic documents.
Online or do-it-yourself estate planning tools do not take into account your particular circumstances and they are not intended for your unique situation. For example, certain situations— such as the needs of blended families, protecting an estate from Medi-Cal recovery, disinheritance, or protecting inheritances for beneficiaries that require ongoing trusts (Special Needs Trusts, asset protection trusts, support trusts)—require careful thought and preparation and are best handled by experienced counsel.
Sure, there might be occasions when saving money or doing things yourself makes sense. But creating a solid estate plan is definitely not one of them.
We Are Here for You.
We are experienced trusts and estates attorneys. We offer free consultations, and we serve all of Arizona. Our offices are located in Sedona and we serve Verde Valley as well. We can help you provide and plan for your loved ones. Call us at 928-282-1483 or contact us here.