With all of the media about “digital wills” and “online estate planning” it could be tempting to think you can do your estate planning yourself, online. And, maybe you can. But, if you do, you need to know the potential pitfalls. Online estate planning could be a big trap for the unwary and actually leave your family worse off than if you had done nothing at all.
But Don’t I Need a Will and Can’t I Just Do It Online?
Here’s the funny thing about estate planning: the one legal document that everyone thinks they need most actually does the least.
Every adult does need SOME estate planning. A will is always a good idea because it says who gets and who is in charge of distributing what you have. However, if the default law would have given your assets to the same people you would choose and authority to the person you would name anyway, then an online will would probably do nothing valuable for you at all.
A will does not keep your family out of court. And if drafted improperly, it could require the person you’ve named to handle things for you to get a bond, which is like an insurance policy. These can be hard to get for an executor who has less than a stellar credit score. If your named executor cannot get a bond, it would then mean the court would appoint a court ordered executor, and that can be costly for your estate. This is just one of the examples of how having a will prepared online, can create more expense for the people you love. Unfortunately, all of the online will preparation solutions I’ve reviewed don’t even mention this risk.
So, yes, you can do your own will online, but at what potential cost for the people you love?
The Problem with Online Wills
DIY online estate plans (and even many estate plans created by lawyers) usually include three to five basic documents: a will, a financial power of attorney, an advance health care directive, possibly a trust, and a legal guardian nomination if you have minor children.
But, honestly, completing these documents without counsel is simply not sufficient to guarantee your estate will be executed as simply, affordably, and effectively as you would wish.
For instance—are you sure there isn’t some missing consideration that could lead to turmoil as your family tries to figure it out? Did you know that most family fights don’t even happen over money, but over lack of clarity? Have you taken into account all your extended family, including stepchildren and ex-spouses? What will be done with all the personal, sentimental items you want to pass on to your children?
There have been far too many scenarios where seniors, even those who had some estate planning done, get caught in the court system or even declared incompetent, and then have court-appointed guardians named, who then drain their accounts. In many cases, their assets are taken before they can get to their kids. You don’t want that to happen to you or your family, right? If not, a do-it-yourself will won’t keep that from happening.
What about making sure your family knows what you have and where it is? An online will won’t tell them that. There’s somewhere between $49 billion and $80 billion being held in state departments of unclaimed property across the United States because someone died and their family lost track of their assets.
So how can you be sure you’ve got everything covered, legally?
With online wills and DIY estate planning docs, you wouldn’t even know what questions to ask to uncover the potential risks to the people you love, who deserve to receive what you’ve created in your life, without a big mess.
Think about this: do you know anyone who has lost family relationships because, after a loved one died, the family ended up in an irrevocable fight? Maybe this has even happened in your own family. It has definitely happened in mine and the consequences—both, financial and emotional—can be devastating.
And, it’s all unnecessary.
Yes, even if there are attorneys on staff at these online companies, they don’t get to know you and your family dynamics enough to spot the real issues that could arise. They are, instead, focused on a one-size-fits-all solution and easy answers to complex issues.
The Kind of Help Your Family Deserves
This is where we come in. We have specific training in how to educate you, empower you, and support you to make the right decisions for the people you love, while we get to know what really matters to you.
We do this through our Initial Planning Session process. If, as a result of the process, we see that you really do have a very simple situation, and you want to create your documents yourself online, we support you to do that. If, as a result of the Initial Planning Session you decide you do need us to draft a plan for you, we support you to choose the right planning fee for you.
We only take a limited number of individuals or families through the Family Initial Planning Session process each month, so we can ensure that the clients we work with get the attention they need to create a plan that actually works for the people they love.
Do it yourself estate planning is risky. While it may be better than nothing, it may also be worse. And it won’t be until after you are gone that your loved ones find out that answer. If you want to do the right thing by the people you love, here’s how you can get started:
This article is a service of the Quraishi Law Firm, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Initial Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule an Initial Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $250 session at no charge. Call us at 870-275-4304 or schedule online today!