By Roy Schneider, Esq.
We admit some aspects of business communications, including banking and shopping are more efficient with the ease and convenience of the internet. With this being true, it may seem logical to some to turn to the internet when creating a legal document such as a Will or Trust. Certainly, there are several software applications, websites, and do-it yourself books advertising how easy and inexpensive it is. However, a Will or Trust is one of the most important of your financial planning documents, and you should know, while the internet can be a wonderful tool, it also contains a tremendous amount of erroneous, misleading, and even dangerous information.
We hold true to the saying that at ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you engage the services of a qualified estate planning attorney, you will find that creating a Will or Trust ends up being a more efficient, less expensive process.
The need for an estate planning attorney is inarguable in each of these situations:
- Your estate is large enough to make estate planning guidance necessary (in California more than $250,000 in liquid assets), you have minor children, or you own real estate of any value
- You want to disinherit an heir
- You have concerns that someone may contest your Will or Trust
- You worry that someone will claim your mind wasn’t sound at the signing of your estate planning instruments.
Mistakes and Omissions
Mistakes and omissions can lead to survivors of the deceased in court spending thousands of dollars to contest ambiguously worded or incomplete estate planning instruments. The Estate Planning Attorneys at Schneiders & Associates, LLP, are often asked to repair such estate planning instruments prepared by a non-attorney third party or by the decedent, that have mistakes or significant omissions.
Evidence that Online Wills or Trusts Are Not Foolproof
Evidence that many other complications can arise when an individual creates a Will or Trust using generalized online directions can be found in the following facts:
- California has its own rules (e.g. requiring differing numbers of disinterested party signatures)
- Even uncontested Wills can languish in probate if not executed in an exacting fashion
- Estate planning attorneys find legal software programs inadequate since the customer is not informed as to the meaning of the various options available
- Even legal websites themselves recommend bringing in an attorney in all but the very simplest cases
Areas that Frequently Cause Problems
Self-constructed Wills or Trusts often become problematic when the testator or settlor:
- Names an executor or trustee who has no financial or legal knowledge
- Leaves a bequest to a pet (legally, you must leave the bequest to an appointed caretaker)
- Puts conditions on payouts that are difficult, or impossible, to enforce
- Makes unusual end-of-life decisions or puts living will information into the testamentary document
- Designates guardians for children, but neglects to name successor guardians
- Neglects to coordinate beneficiary designations where, for example, the Will or Trust and insurance policy designations contradict one another
- Leaves funeral instructions into a Will since the document will most likely not be read until after the funeral has taken place
- Leaves inexact or ambiguous instructions dealing with blended families
- Neglects to mention small items in the estate plan which, though of small financial value, are meaningful to loved ones and may cause contention
Just as most of us are not equipped to do our own plumbing repairs or automotive repairs, most of us do not have the background or experience to create our own legal documents, even with the help of written directions. Contact the attorneys at Schneiders & Associates, LLP to schedule a no charge consultation for your Estate Planning matters. Before your consultation, we will send you an Estate Planning Questionnaire that will help us and you prepare for your meeting.
In order to ensure that you leave your assets in the hands of those you wish, and to avoid leaving your loved ones with bitter disputes and expensive probate costs, it is advisable that you consult with an experienced estate planning attorney at Schneiders & Associates, LLP when devising a meaningful estate plan.