By Karina Thomas | September 10, 2018
Common questions we get asked as estate planning attorneys are: Why should I pay you to prepare my estate plan? Why not use web-based preparation software that lets me do it myself for less? These are fair questions. The short answer is estate planning is more than just documents. A person’s family, assets and goals are often more complicated than default software programs can capture. These programs assume you married your high school sweetheart, you have two kids who are upstanding adults in perfect marriages of their own and you want all your assets going first to your spouse then to your kids outright. In that situation, perhaps a web-based program could be a good tool.
But since so few of us have straightforward lives, consider this: you’re on your second marriage, and both you and your spouse have children from prior relationships. At your death, you have given your spouse 100% of all your assets, without restriction. What happens if your spouse then takes those assets, remarries, and redrafts their estate plan to give all their assets (including everything they inherited from you) to their new partner, thereby disinheriting your children from receiving anything? Or what if you have one child who has a severe drug or alcohol problem, and you’re worried about them spending their inheritance on something unsavory? Or what if you’re worried your child’s spouse may try and take them for everything they’re worth in the event of a divorce? Or what if you simply want to avoid probate and protect your assets in the most efficient way possible? The resources online rarely—if ever—give you the opportunity to address these concerns.
DIY plans are often fill-in-the-blank documents. There’s no one to answer questions about how they work in practice. There is little opportunity to tailor the provisions. And if you do, there’s risk of creating problems for your family.
An attorney-prepared estate plan will address your goals and concerns in a custom, comprehensive and completely personalized way. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing it was done correctly and validly, can be implemented easily after your death and avoids tax traps and pitfalls, saving you money. An attorney can also spot potential issues in your estate plan before they crop up, including avoiding litigation down the road, which, again, saves you money. These benefits outweigh the costs of hiring an attorney to prepare your plan. And of course, having the ability to meet with someone face-to-face to discuss your options, to discuss the relevant law, and to ask advice from is, truly, worth its weight in gold.
The information contained herein is not intended as legal, tax or investment advice. For such advice, please contact our office or another competent estate planning attorney who can review your own special situation and prepare documents right for you.