In today's world, you can buy almost anything online, including estate planning documents. Do-It-Yourself legal document sites like Legalzoom, Legalshield and RocketLawyer, among others, advertise the ease and relatively low cost of DIY legal documents.
There is no denying the ease and convenience of clicking and downloading legal forms, in the comfort of your own home, for a low cost. But, just because you can do so online, doesn't mean you should.
Here a few things to consider before you decide to DIY your own estate planning documents:
- You get what you pay for. Most individuals believe they know enough estate planning that they can make informed decisions regarding the documents they need to draft. But, it is disastrous to assume everyone has the same estate planning goals and needs, and a generic downloadable legal form will fit every individual's estate goals.
These legal websites create their documents to fit the masses and function in a manner where they follow the most basic aspects of the law. They offer no customizable language to specifically address your situation.
- Familiarity with state law. It is important not to discount a lawyer's opinions and expertise. Estate planning attorneys are well versed in the complexities of estate law and can guide you to choosing and drafting documents that fit your goals and needs.
Meeting with an estate planning attorney means your questions are answered by someone with the right answers, instead of your clicking, guessing and Googling how you should complete that click-and-fill form.
Furthermore, an attorney is going to address the pros and cons of your documents, the long-term affects, how they function in a variety of situations, and review all the potential risks associated with your documents and specific situation.
Plus, with an attorney you can develop an ongoing working relationship. So, no matter what life throws at you, you have a competent resource to ensure your estate plan always works for you.
- Ignorance is not bliss. As stated above, these legal websites are generic - meaning they address the broadest and most basic aspects of state law. This should be a major red flag for consumers.
Details and specifics in estate planning documents are important. Even the smallest omission can have major consequences when it comes time for someone to rely upon your documents.
If you are unfamiliar with the nuances of state law, and do not know what you should be looking for, you are unable to prevent these types of deceptively innocuous mistakes.
In the realm of estate planning documents, what you do not know, can most definitely hurt you.
- Don't fall for the hype. Do-It-Yourself estate planning documents seem like a good way to check that task off your to-do list, but the risks are too great to leave something so important to chance with a click-and-fill form. Talk with a qualified estate planning attorney today or sign up for a workshop to learn more about elder law and estate planning.
Rebekah N. Freeman is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center.