WHY “DO IT YOURSELF/FILL IN THE BLANK” WILLS & TRUSTS OFTEN RESULT IN DISASTER
Retaining the services and expertise of an attorney who can assist you in preparing a smart estate plan requires a serious investment of time and money. The benefits (however) far outweigh whatever the upfront costs may be. Having the assurance and peace of mind that you and your family will be legally and financially protected in taking on the challenges of the future is inestimable. However, these guarantees vanish immediately when one chooses to forgo retaining experienced legal advice and opting for the “do-it-yourself” approach to estate planning. Many unpleasant scenarios and real potential dangers await those who want to save a few dollars in the short-term; and whose loved ones will probably end up having to pay tens of thousands of dollars correcting their mistakes.
Everyone is unique. No two families are the same. The slick advertising that online legal services utilize (especially with using formercelebrity attorneys to pitch their offerings) cannot deny this simple fact: virtual legal document preparers that promise cheap, fill in the blank options for estate planning will never replace the professional, confidential relationship between a lawyer and his/her client. When circumstances require urgent technical advice and counsel, these do-it-yourself websites are of no use to a distraught client. Their staff is prohibited from rendering any kind of practical legal guidance to consumers. If you are making a terrible mistake in your estate planning, they can’t prevent you from doing so (the
unauthorized practice of law is a criminal offense in all 50 states).
In addition, these online services only offer all-purpose-type estate planning documents. They often lack the legal language and state specific legislation crucial to making absolutely sure that your wishes and intentions will be carried out. Those who choose to this method cannot protect their children/heirs from potential lawsuits, former spouses, creditors, or from being disqualified from receiving guaranteed government benefits (if they have special needs). Only an attorney who is experienced in this area of the law can provide you with expert opinions and suggestions to help you make your estate plan a successful one. A strident example of this is in attaching a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report with every trust quitclaim deed processed in California. Without this report, any deed submitted to fund a trust will be rejected by the County Recorder’s Office every time.
Any reasonable person appreciates the old adage: “you get what you pay for.” You shouldn’t expect to get high-end, gourmet quality faire at a drive thru. The same standard should also apply to estate planning. This small investment of time and money is a worthwhile endeavor. But unfortunately, many (otherwise) sensible people come to realize this fact the hard way.