Without a doubt, we live in a “DIY” world. Most of us are willing to do some work ourselves to save the cost of hiring a knowledgeable professional. This is as true with our wills and other estate planning documents as it is with constructing built-in bookshelves in the family room.
Online form provider LegalZoom, for example, boasts selling 1.5 million forms for a last will and testament. At a base cost of $89, you may think buying a form and filling it out yourself will save you a significant amount of money, but be warned — you may be penny wise and pound foolish.
Choosing what happens to your estate after your death is one of the most important decisions you will make while you are alive. It is a risk to use an online, one-size-fits-all form that could be challenged after you’re gone or thrown out altogether in a probate court with jurisdiction. An experienced estate planning attorney can be worth their weight in gold.
At Eric H. Light, P.A., I have been counseling clients and crafting their wills and other estate planning documents for more than 20 years. I am committed to making sure these documents are detailed, unique, and comply with the law. I help give individuals and families in Boca Raton, Florida true peace of mind regarding their legacies, large and small.
Why Estate Planning is Important
While having an estate plan is particularly important for older adults, severely ill people, and parents with minor children, every person 18 years of age and older should consider working with an estate planning attorney to prepare for the future.
If you die without a properly executed will or trust, a court will decide how your estate is distributed. It will not matter what you intended to leave to whom.
Online Forms vs. An
Estate Planning Attorney
Here we will discuss five important reasons why using an experienced estate planning attorney to craft your legal documents is a wise choice to ensure your legacy:
Estate planning documents must be state-specific. State laws differ regarding inheritance, taxes, and probate of estates. Online forms, which are “generic” in nature, lack the specific guidance needed to make a will legal in a state’s probate court. If you have assets in more than one state or even international assets, online forms lack the complexity necessary to make them legally binding documents. An estate planning attorney will know the laws of your state and craft documents that will make a properly executed document hold up in court.
Making small modifications to estate planning documents can cause large problems. Online forms are unforgiving. If you want to make even a minor change, you may need to start over from the beginning. One small change in one place can force other changes throughout your estate documents. An attorney understands the ramifications of even a minor modification and can not only counsel you about the desired change but ensure that all documents are revised accordingly.
Estate planning requires good legal advice. A form contains instructions for completing the form. It provides no experienced or insightful advice as you choose how you want to distribute your estate. Nor can the form advise you on issues such as the tax implications to your estate and beneficiaries. Only an estate planning attorney can answer questions, raise issues, and provide the information you need to make decisions about your legacy.
Disputes may arise when you are gone. Heirs are not always pleased with what they are left in wills, and this may lead to one or more of them contesting the will in probate court. If you filled out a will online, there is no one who can attest to why you chose to distribute your estate as you did. If you had an attorney create the will, they would be able to address issues raised in court regarding your intent. Because the attorney does not benefit from the will, a judge is more likely to listen to them than to a disgruntled interested party. In other words, your attorney will be able to speak effectively on your behalf should the need arise.
Safekeeping of your estate planning documents. If your original will cannot be located after your death, some states will presume that you revoked it prior to your death. Your entire estate would be probated and distributed under the laws of intestate succession. If you complete an online will and the original goes missing or is accidentally thrown away, there is no backup. Ask your attorney to retain the original will. Even if your attorney is unable to find the original, there will probably be a copy either in a file or on the firm’s computer system which can be produced in the absence of the original.
Hire an Experienced
Estate Planning Attorney
It is wise for even people who have few assets to have a will, updated as wealth is accumulated and as life-changing events such as marriage, divorce and children occur. The more complicated your estate, the more reason you have to retain a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney to make sure what you leave behind is distributed according to your wishes and in compliance with the law.
You spend your entire life building your estate. It seems unwise to leave the distribution of your life’s work and legacy to a generic online form. At Eric H. Light, P.A., I offer clients in Boca Raton, Florida thoughtful, experienced legal advice about their estate planning. As your guide, I will ask questions to clarify issues that could arise when you are gone. My wish is to provide you peace of mind as you preserve your legacy.
Call my office today to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs. It is never too early to start planning.