Times have changed. There was a time when it was common for our evening dinner to be harvested in our yard earlier in the same day. In our offices, “cut and paste” literally meant to “cut and paste” and fax machines were cutting edge. Our music was on wax, and phone calls were made from booths on many street corners. Our years started with “19”.
With the turn of the millennium, our society has adjusted to systems and processes designed to make life simpler, convenient and “more efficient.” Full-course meals are prepackaged and can be sent to your home. Documents are drafted, edited, and delivered with signatures via cell phones, while phone calls are in process with music “streaming” in the background. Again, times have changed, and inventors of these processes of efficiency are rewarded handsomely for simplifying our lives. While we often appreciate many of these efficiencies, in some cases these simplified systems and services may do more harm than good. In some areas, and with some services, we realize that nothing can replace “the way it was;” there’s no need to fix the unbroken. Estate planning, involving wills, trusts, powers of attorney, etc., is one of those areas. Will kits and online services designed for consumers to create wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other legal documents, carry significant risks due to their inherent shortcomings. With that in mind, below are five reasons why will kits and online estate planning services should be avoided and replaced by the services of an expert estate planning attorney.
- You Are Unique
There is no one like you. No one has the same combination of family dynamics, asset types and values, personal interests and ultimate wishes as you. As a result, no one should have the same type of will, trust or overall estate plan as you. Estate planning is one area of law that requires an attorney to pay very close attention to every detail of your life, as one minor variation in facts will impact the direction of your plan. A good estate planning attorney is trained to contemplate all possible scenarios that could arise based upon your unique life situation. The attorney then creates a plan for you that will accomplish your goals and interests in the face of each of those scenarios. A form or questionnaire cannot ask all of the questions that will identify the fullness of your need. As a result, one size cannot fit all. Cookie-cutter planning for the diversities of life is simply inappropriate.
- Your Children, Your Assets and You, Are Too Important for Chance
Estate Planning is the area of law that helps you provide solutions to the following life questions: “What happens to my children and/or assets if I die?” and “Who will make decisions for me and care for me if I am incapacitated?” These questions are among the most important that you will ever answer. It is recommended that you do not leave the future of your children, the handling of your hard-earned assets, or your long-term care to a kit or questionnaire. You all deserve much more.
- Which Will and/or Trust “Type” is Best for You?
If you have looked into estate planning before you have noticed that there are many different types of wills, trusts, powers of attorney and business considerations. Estate planning experts know that within each of these different types of documents, there are multiple ways to carry out your wishes and protecting your assets and family. Estate planning is not a document production system, but instead a problem-solving service requiring significant understanding of applicable laws and resources. At times, some situations and circumstances require creative thinking and drafting on the part of an expert that is aware of the restrictions and parameters involved within the estate planning area of law. A “new” drafting technique or document may be best in order to satisfy your concerns or resolve your challenge. The kit can’t do that. Your estate planning expert can.
- What About Future Maintenance?
Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that somehow a decent plan is created for you through the store-bought kit, or online service. What are your options if an applicable law changes in your state? Will you be notified? Who will you call if you want to change your beneficiaries, trustee of assets or guardian of your children? Life happens, and circumstances change. Your plan should find professional support that is in tune with legal and life changes. Kits and online services are not designed for this purpose.
- Nothing Beats an Interested Expert!
It takes significant time and training to develop a knowledge base that is sufficient to properly service an estate planning client. It is this author’s opinion that due to the complexity of the estate planning practice area, the only proper source of estate planning services is the select group of attorneys who have experienced the combination of continuing legal education, years of hands-on training and closely involved mentor support in estate planning. Your attorney has family members, situations and circumstances in his or her own life, and understands the care and concern that comes along with family and life. Such empathy, along with the legal expertise developed through educational training and work experience, is your most reliable resource for properly resolving your care concerns. Anything short of an attorney with such proven expertise is a roll of the dice. The interested expert attorney is the right choice.
Bottom line, cutting corners with the management of your assets, the care of your children or your own personal care is not a good idea. Using will kits and online services often equates to treating fatal diseases with over-the-counter medications. Instead of relying on such futile acts, seek professional expertise and be certain that your interests will be met. It’s the right thing to do.
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