For many busy Americans, there is a great appeal to online estate planning. What’s not to love about online estate planning? You can do it yourself, it’s cheap, and it’s easy!
Some people, like the late musician Prince, who have had bad experiences with attorneys in their past will use that as an excuse to use online estate planning in lieu of working with an attorney. If any of these justifications have crossed your mind, then we encourage you to think again. Placing price over the value of an experienced and well-trained attorney could end up costing you much more in the end.
Why trust an attorney to help you with your estate plan? Laws on trusts and estates will vary between states and each jurisdiction has different requirements. If there is a failure, even if it’s inadvertent, to adhere to any of these requirements, then it could invalidate your documents. This is one of the follies of online estate planning: It is difficult for someone untrained in the specifics of the law to be privy to these kind of details. While we’re a nation of devout do-it-yourselfers, always remember that you don’t know what you don’t know about the law.
Additionally, the requirements for notarization will vary from state to state. If your particular state’s requirements are not fulfilled exactly as required by state law, your documents will be invalid. Of course, some do-it-yourselfers even forget to get their documents notarized, which causes a whole host of other challenges with the validity of the estate plan.
In light of the foregoing, please keep in mind that oftentimes mistakes in your estate plan or failure to comply with state law requirements may not be discovered until after your death, which may be many years from now. This will create a huge headache for your family after your passing.
Another drawback to online estate planning is that you do not receive any counsel as to what is best for you and your family. Estate planning is very complex and there are many nuances to an estate plan that cannot be fully conveyed by an online experience. Working with an attorney is the best way you can truly guarantee that your plan is executed according to your exact wishes and that your family is set up for success in the future.
However if you find yourself rationalizing using online estate planning (whether you think like Prince, or you simply don’t want to pay the price), please think twice before locking yourself into what could be a huge mistake.
This piece was based off a piece by Alejandra Rodriguez, entitled “Considering Online Estate Planning? Think Twice” from March 20, 2015.