There are many online do-it-yourself document preparation services that help people prepare a will. These services claim that estate planning is as easy as filling in the blanks of a standard form.
This post is not intended to disqualify or diminish the services offered online, but shares several factors that everyone should consider before entrusting the management of their estate to a fill-in-the-blank form from the internet.
The main thing to remember is that the cheapest alternative is not always the best alternative. The reason is that when you start preparing your will, you are trying to plan for the future of your loved ones, your family, and you try to plan for anything unthinkable that can happen in the future. This entails a thorough investigation of the facts, and taking into consideration some of the issues you may not be aware of. The process needs a tailored approach as each person's case is unique, and it has lots of aspects that the unprofessional eye cannot see or consider while filling in the blank forms available online in bulk.
Here are some major reasons why you should consult with an attorney with estate planning:
- Online DIY document preparation services will try to attract with their cheapest rates, and minimized time spent while filling in the standard form;
- The reviews that other customers leave, or lawyer's opinions will give you a false sense of security. Remember, everyone's case needs to be approached individually, and it does not mean that something that worked for someone else will work for you too;
- Usually customers do not pay attention to footnotes that will carry sensitive information like, “the information is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date”, or the disclaimers stating that their services are not a substitute for the professional advice. This will try to assure you that the professional advice is not necessary;
- DIY online document preparation services like LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer are not going to be able to review the answers you provided for legal accuracy, provide you with legal conclusions or assist you with legal advice on your particular situation; they are able to support you with general information depending on the previously answered questions by other customers in general.
- As LegalZoom's disclaimer states, they can only provide self-help services, and they are not permitted to engage in the practice of law. Buyer beware!
When the stakes are high, the last thing you want is an error in your legal document.
Here are some of the things you might be forgetting to include in your will:
- Alternate trustee in the event the named trustee predeceases you;
- Self-proving affidavit; non-probate assets passing outside the will;
- Birth or adoption of a child;
- Protecting the trust assets from the trust beneficiary's creditors; minimizing estate taxes; or
- Ensuring that your children are cared for by the guardian of your choice, etc.
As mentioned, everyone's situation is unique, and every decision you are making now, you are making for your family in the future. The errors made in a will are revealed after death. Your family who you tried to help, will be left dealing with the legal mistake that you created for them to correct with either positive or negative outcome you will never know of. The consequences can often be expensive or even tragic.
Attorneys have an extensive legal experience, and they can see the bigger picture and support you with valuable legal advice. It is not just form filling. Trained legal professionals are able to evaluate your particular circumstances, and give you advice on the best ways to protect your family. Professional services may cost you more, but all those disclaimers on the DIY document preparation services' websites are not worth risking your family's peaceful future.
You owe your loved ones the advantages of consulting with a qualified professional who can evaluate your individual case, and help you with your estate planning.
If you need our help writing or revising your will; drafting your advanced directives; or making other plans for your estate, please set up a consultation on our website.