The Hazards of DIY

Do-it-yourself estate planning is the gift that keeps on giving. To attorneys, that is. A married client recently came in to see me. He had used one of the online document preparation services to create a revocable living trust for himself. When I reviewed his trust agreement with him, he was dismayed to learn that he had essentially disinherited his beloved wife, to whom he thought he was leaving everything.

The online estate planning services that I am aware are rather inexpensive, so they would appear at first glance to be good alternatives for those seeking affordable estate planning. However, those services cannot give legal advice, and their documents do not have the flexibility or sophistication that attorney-prepared documents, tailored for your needs, can provide. In fact, the online documents I have seen do not always even meet basic legal requirements.

Also, as multiple clients of ours discovered, the online documents can be confusing and do not always do what you think they do. A young widow came in to see me shortly after losing her husband. She brought in the trust agreement that they had completed using an online service. They had very young children and thought that their trust gave full control to the surviving spouse, and upon that spouse’s death gave everything to their children – all without probate court involvement. I had to tell her that not only did the trust fail to leave everything to her, but it called for continuing probate court supervision until their children were grown. She was heartbroken.

Sometimes you really do get what you pay for. At Wright Beamer, we have the skill and experience to help you craft a high-quality estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and goals. To speak with one of our estate planning attorneys, please call us at (248) 477-6300.

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