Online Trusts and Wills: What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You
These days you can pay a fee and create your own online trust or will. The claim of the sites that offer these do-it-yourself forms is that you’ll save time and expense. But we’ve got a different perspective. At Phelps LaClair firm in the Phoenix Valley, we’re quite familiar with the intricacies of the law, especially when it comes to estate planning. We understand that missing one key phrase in a legal document, or omitting one important document from an entire estate plan could mean serious financial headaches for you or your beneficiaries. Believe us, when it comes to using DIY online forms, what you don’t know could hurt you!
The Problem with an Online Trust or Will
First, it’s true; for a few people, it’s possible those online forms could suffice. They’re generic enough that they just might work for those who don’t have much in the way of assets. But by law, the creators of those online forms are forbidden to offer any legal advice. In fact, they could be arrested for doing so. Only lawyers with a license can offer legal advice. Which means, an online trust or will isn’t going to go into any specifics. These forms won’t include any extras. Since the creators of these sites don’t know your financial situation or your assets, they can’t give you advice about your specific needs. They can’t tailor their forms for your estate. You’ll get a basic, nonspecific form, and that’s all. And those online sites will never, ever promise that your documents will work in a court of law. They simply cannot make that promise. In short, you could be risking your entire estate by opting for a universal form that in the end, may fail when held up to the law.
Second, you think you’ll be saving money since those forms seem to be much cheaper than paying legal counsel to give you advice attuned to meet your needs. But if you work with our law firm, remember, you’ll be paying a flat package fee, with a free consultation to get you started. Unlike the online sites that charge a per document fee, with our firm’s flat-fee package, we create all the necessary documents you’ll need to accurately and securely represent your estate. In the long run, paying multiple fees for multiple forms online—without the wisdom of seasoned lawyers to advise—isn’t the benefit it’s stacked up to be.
Third, if there are any unique situations with your family and your beneficiaries, using DIY online trust or will could end up seriously hurting your beneficiaries. Have any of your beneficiaries been divorced? Do your beneficiaries have step-children through those divorces? Without creating the right documents, the inheritances of your beneficiaries could be compromised by anyone who decides to sue for their part of the estate.
What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You
Another problem with online sites? They cannot make recommendations for saving you money. Estate planning lawyers, especially firms like ours that have been around for more than 40 years, can help you find tax advantages for your estate. Once we’ve looked at your entire financial situation, we can also advise you on things like special needs trusts for your special needs child, or protective inheritance trusts that protect your beneficiaries from creditors, lawsuits, divorce, etc.
And we haven’t even begun to discuss the concept that you or your spouse could need long-term care when you get older. Online forms don’t help you plan for the unexpected. And with average stays in nursing homes being more than two years in length, without making the right choices in protecting your estate, you could end up siphoning off most of the inheritance you had intended to leave to your loved ones. But sit down with one of our lawyers, and we’ll give you solid advice on how to be ready for long-term care and still leave a legacy.
It makes sense, in light of all the risks of using an online trust or will, that opting for the wise counsel of a legal firm is a better way to go. At Phelps LaClair, serving the Phoenix Valley, it’s our desire to help you by giving advice that is unique to your situation; tailored to your end-of-life desires; protects your estate while you’re still alive; protects your estate for your beneficiaries after you’ve passed away; and not only prevents loss, but gives you the best possible financial outcomes. Hopefully, by now you understand that an online trust or will isn’t such a bargain after all. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact our offices, or come and meet us in person at one of our free seminars. We’ll be glad to apply our legal wisdom and know-how on behalf of your estate and give you the quality and accuracy you need.
Images used under creative commons license (Commercial Use) 12/7/18 Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst