Most estate planning attorneys frequently hear some form of this question: can’t I just do this myself online?
You certainly can create your estate plan yourself. And it’s pretty simple and affordable online.
In our experience, though, the most frequent response we get during a consultation is “I hadn’t thought of that!” To us, that’s what an attorney brings to the proverbial table. Attorneys ask questions to learn the nuances of your particular family dynamics, your goals, and any situations that you may not have thought about. Also, attorneys have the benefit of experience dealing with many other estates, and bringing that experience into planning your estate. This is not about the value of your assets, it’s about understanding goals, making sure you have documents in place that reflect what you want, applying current law, and avoiding potential pitfalls.
Some clients ask us to do a “trust review,” which means looking at the will or trust they already created because they want to modify some aspect of it. Clients are often surprised to see that the will or trust they created online isn’t going to do what they intended it would do. With estate planning documents, wording is the key to everything. With computer generated trusts and estate planning documents, a word or phrase in the wrong place can make the difference between your child being able to use her inheritance toward college education and having to go to court to “unlock” her inheritance because there was a badly worded restriction placed on it. There’s no such thing as a cut and paste estate plan; your life and your family are unique and your estate plan should reflect that.
We’ve also been on the other side of estate planning—the trust administration and probate side that takes place after someone has passed away. We know that you and your loved ones should have the space to grieve instead of trying to interpret the terms of a trust or navigating the probate process. We are here to ensure that you have the peace of mind that an expert is here to assist you through this tough time.
And we’ve been in the in-between—incapacity. We know what it’s like to walk into a bank or call the insurance company with your loved one’s estate planning documents to try to assist your loved one. We know the reality of what the bank or insurance company is going to say to let you get that done. An attorney ensures you have what you need so you can avoid frustration and don’t need to go to court.
Which gets us to one of the main components of hiring an attorney—the attorney-client relationship. When you retain an attorney, that attorney owes you certain duties. Some are the duty of confidentiality, the duty of loyalty, the duty of competent representation, and the duty of zealous advocacy. If a lawyer breaches any of its duties to a client, the lawyer can be held accountable. Lawyers are required to uphold very high standards when it comes to representing clients and their interests. When you use an online service, no attorney-client relationship is formed. No duties are owed to you. You (or your loved ones) cannot hold anyone accountable if things do not turn out how you wanted them to. All you have is a document that you drafted.
That’s the key: hiring an attorney gives you peace of mind through expertise and experience. An attorney will be there in times of crises, when an online provider will not.
We think that we would be those attorneys to give you peace of mind in your estate planning; and if you’d like to find out more, contact us for a free consultation.