In today’s culture, we use the internet for just about everything, from telecommuting for work in Houston, Texas to playing online games with people spread across the globe. So when internet startup companies started offering estate planning documents that can be completed online with little to no human interaction, some people hopped on board thinking that these forms would work for them. However, an article on ABA Law Technology Today, titled “3 Reasons to Avoid Online Forms for Wills and Estate Planning”, points out some issues with using these forms.
They are often not state specific. Some of the online estate planning forms are not state specific, meaning that a person in Houston, Texas will fill out the same form as someone is Anchorage, Alaska. The problem with this approach is that each state has different laws when it comes to the requirements for legal documents, including estate planning documents. To ensure that your documents comply with state law, you should speak to a qualified estate planning attorney.
You are missing out on valuable legal advice. While a website can churn out documents in a short amount of time and make you feel like you have accomplished your estate planning goals, the tools used on these websites do not take into account your personal financial or family situation in an effort to craft an estate plan that is right for you. Everyone’s estate planning needs are different, and the websites that produce estate planning forms don’t yet have the capability to take into account the myriad of factors that need to be considered when creating your estate plan. A qualified Houston estate planning attorney can sit down with you and discuss at length your financial situation, your family dynamic, and your goals and objectives when it comes to your planning. He can also recommend different options for your estate plan and explain the differences between those options so that you can make the most informed decision possible.
Websites don’t inform you of changes in the law in the future. Websites that draft legal documents don’t stay up to date on current law and notify you of changes in the law that may affect the validity or relevance of your legal documents. Simply put, they aren’t attorneys. Estate planning attorneys spend considerable time and effort staying up to date on the laws so that they can always offer you the most relevant legal advice and can notify you in the future if the laws change. This could mean the difference between having an estate plan that accomplishes your goals and one that is difficult or more costly to administer after you die.
As the article mentioned above states, you get what you pay for. Doing your estate planning with some forms you find on a website will likely be cheaper and less time-consuming than meeting with an attorney and coming up with a customized estate plan designed to fit your needs, but the do-it-yourself approach can cause problems that may ultimately end up costing much more. Is it worth it to take this chance when it comes to important decisions that will have long-term effects on your loved ones?
Reference: ABA Law Technology Today (October 7, 2014) “3 Reasons to Avoid Online Forms for Wills and Estate Planning”