Sure, you can print forms for a Will, Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property, and a Living Will from the internet and fill in the blanks yourself. You can even prepare your own Living Trust using a form you find online, but do you really know what these forms will mean to you and your family? Do you have the correct number of witnesses and did you have the documents properly notarized? What about funding that trust that you just printed and signed?
We have seen so many documents prepared without the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, and the results to the loved ones left behind are often disastrous. One example is family fighting over who will take care of minor children or who will handle the money left to a minor, which will have to be monitored by a guardianship judge until the child reaches age 18—at which time the 18 year old child will receive all of his or her inheritance! Then there is the Will that is invalid because it was not properly witnessed, so the testator’s wish that her favorite niece inherit all of her estate doesn’t come true and, instead, the testator’s 15 nieces and nephews (some of whom she didn’t even know or, worse, couldn’t stand!) will all share everything equally.
A good estate planning attorney will raise many issues that you probably have not even considered, and will most certainly not be prompted to consider by any forms that you find online. Does your online Will take into consideration the possibility that one of your children may divorce their spouse in the future? Or did you provide in your internet-generated Living Trust a fund to improve the quality of life for your disabled child without having them lose all benefits they may be receiving? What if you become disabled and need someone to take care of you during your life—have you titled your assets in such a way and executed the appropriate advance directives to make this possible without having to go to guardianship court?
We understand that many people think that online forms are a cheaper alternative to hiring an estate planning attorney, and that the thought for many people is “I don’t have that much anyway, so I’ll just do it myself.” This can prove to be a costly mistake, both for you and for your family who you leave behind. Even if the mistakes can be repaired later on, it will cost much more to do so than you would have spent to do it right in the first place. And that is if it can even be fixed at all—often times no amount of money paid to attorneys or courts will get the results intended by the person who signed the do-it-yourself forms.
Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Business Immigration, Litigation and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law.
This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.