Much like tax software that has helped ordinary people file their taxes online, online legal forms have made straightforward contracts such as lease agreements accessible without the help of an attorney. While that might work for the garden apartment you rent out, however, using a do-it-yourself will or trust is a riskier affair.
Even if your income and assets are relatively modest, planning for the future requires covering a lot of ground with as much precision as possible. You may have already decided to leave each beneficiary an equal portion of your estate and chosen a person you trust to have power of attorney. But what if you didn’t specify what should happen to your home when it will be owned by multiple parties? Your heirs may end up fighting over whether to keep it as the family homestead or sell it to get what they believe is their fair share.
Probate laws and tax considerations that vary from state to state also make online estate planning documents a poor choice. They may not anticipate circumstances such as the premature death of a parent in a family with young children. What if the surviving spouse remarries? Protecting the interests of children in certain complex family situations can be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish via a generic will.
Perhaps the biggest risk with the do-it-yourself approach is that it’s hard to know what you don’t know. Assets placed in trust need to be retitled. Improperly worded wills may not cover children born after the will was drafted. Entire estate planning documents may be left out of a plan because the layperson didn’t know they were needed. States have specific language that may not be differentiated in the software. Unfortunately, the list of mistakes and omissions you could possibly make by drafting your own will, power of attorney, medical directive or trust is virtually endless.
Hiring a lawyer may feel like an unnecessary expense when so much is available to you through a cheaper online alternative. But unlike the cost of making a mistake with a generic landlord-tenant agreement, you won’t be around to help your family pick up the pieces. It makes sense to do your research to find a reputable, experienced attorney whose focus is on estate planning rather than having just any general practice lawyer draft a will. Once you have found the right professional, you can rest knowing that your investment will pay off for your loved ones after your incapacitation or death.
Bankier, Arlen & Snelling Law Group, PLLC assists Palm Beach County residents with a full range of estate planning needs, including drafting of wills, trusts and powers of attorney. To meet with one of our knowledgeable lawyers, call us at 561-278-3110 or contact us online.