If you Google “online estate planning services,” nearly 600,000 results pop up in a split-second. Search “estate planning with forms” on Amazon and more than 450 entries are displayed. It would appear that using stock forms to create your own will, trust, or another legal document is a common practice.
How you want your estate distributed after your death is one of the most important decisions you will make while you’re alive. Believing a “one-size-fits-all” template will ensure your unique and specific wishes are honored after you are gone is risky. Although do-it-yourself forms may be less expensive than hiring an experienced estate planning attorney, you will be getting what you paid for.
Bearman Law helps clients in Salem, Lake Oswego, and areas throughout the state of Oregon create estate plans that give them the power to decide how their assets are distributed. Unlike an online company selling forms to the masses, attorney David A. Bearman is committed to protecting your wishes and your legacy.
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 adult should consider working with an estate planning attorney. If you die without a properly executed will or trust, a court will decide how your estate is distributed, and it will not matter what you may have intended to leave or to whom you intended to leave it.
Online Forms vs. Estate Planning Attorney
Here is a brief list of five reasons using an experienced estate planning attorney to craft your legal documents is a wise choice to ensure your legacy:
Estate planning documents should be state-specific. State laws differ regarding inheritance, taxes, and probate of estates. Online forms, which are generic in nature, may 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 sophistication necessary to make them legally binding documents. An estate planning attorney will know the laws of the state and craft documents that will help the document hold up in court.
Making small modifications to estate planning documents could cause large problems. Online forms are unforgiving. If you want to make even a minor change, you may need to start from the beginning. One small change in one place can force other changes throughout your estate document. 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. A form also can’t advise you on issues such as the potential 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 after you are gone. Heirs are not always pleased with what is left to them in wills and this may lead to one or more beneficiaries contesting a will in probate court. If you created your will with an online form, there is no one who can attest to why you chose to distribute your estate as you did. If you have 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.
Safekeeping of your estate planning documents is vital. If the 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 subject to probate 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.
Choose an Experienced
Estate Planning Attorney
Even if you have only a few assets, you should at least have a will. 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 as you wish.
Online documents are attractive because they are less expensive than hiring an attorney. Still, there is no comparison between the advice, counsel, and legal expertise you receive from an attorney and a generic online form.
Bearman Law provides clients in Salem and Lake Oswego, Oregon, with the thoughtful and legal information they need to make decisions about their estates. Attorney David A. Bearman crafts estate planning documents that will help ensure their wishes are honored, offering people like you peace of mind knowing that their legacies are secure. It is never too early to put an estate plan into place. Call today to schedule a free consultation.