Did you create your own documents?
Why pay a lawyer when I can get my estate documents online for free (or at least at a lesser cost than a lawyer)? Every estate planning attorney has fielded that question at some point or another. My response is usually: “I love online documents…because it usually means I’ll have more work that makes more money in the future.” After I say that, I typically get a grin across the client’s face and then they ask “why”?
Using online documents to accomplish your estate planning goals is not generally a good idea and in many cases can lead to severe consequences. Have you ever heard the saying, “you get what you pay for”? When you get your documents online, you don’t have the opportunity to talk to an attorney, to ask questions about your specific situation unique to only you or your family, and your documents will not be tailored to your specific circumstances.
Prior to your documents being drafted, you meet with an attorney to discuss your estate planning goals and objectives at the consultation. My estate planning consultations usually last at least an hour if not an hour and a half. During the consultation, we review your health status, family status and financial status all before we even mention the words “will” or “power of attorney” or “trust.” You also have the opportunity to ask questions and receive specific answers related to your situation. When you get your documents online, they are almost never tailored to your specific situation.
What happens if you are a blended family? I can almost guarantee you that the basic online Will does not address how to provide for your spouse and your biological children if you were to die first. Many estate litigation cases arise from blended family situations where the surviving step parent does a new will after the spouse dies cutting out the spouse’s biological children from any inheritance.
What about your million-dollar IRA? Who does that go to? Many clients think the Will directs who gets that money. WRONG!! If you have beneficiaries on that IRA, then the beneficiaries listed on the IRA account receive the money and the beneficiaries named in the Will get none of it! So many people believe the Will controls everything, and unfortunately, if you get your documents online, you will not be educated on what happens to each asset that comprises your estate.
What if you own property in multiple states? Chances are you were not advised by the online website that you will have to likely do probate in each state you own property. To avoid this common situation, often times estate planning attorneys will employ trusts so that ownership of those properties are consolidated into the Trust. That way, upon the death of the owner, the Trustee can sell the properties and does not have to go through the probate/ancillary probate process in each state the Decedent owned property.
Estate planning can be a very complicated area of the law. Before going online to print off your documents, ask yourself, if I needed open heart surgery, would I go to WebMD to get the “how-to” instructions? Not likely, so why go online to get the how-to instructions to complete your own estate documents? Instead, call ERA Law Group, LLC at (410) 919-1790 today!