From the Desk of Rafael Ruano, Managing Associate, Estate & Business Planning Division:

Whether on the phone with a prospective client or at my son’s soccer practice, some  of the most common questions I get when I am talking to people about estate planning, are “what about using an online service for a trust?” or  “my situation is straightforward and simple, why do I need an attorney?”

These questions are completely understandable as companies like Legalzoom have marketed their ability to help you prepare a complete estate plan for a much smaller fee than what an attorney charges.  I find these sorts of questions a great opportunity to explain the value added when I draft a set of documents for my clients.
If a potential client is single, without kids and without assets, they probably don’t have a pressing need for an attorney. Then again, they probably don’t need an online site either, as a handwritten will is likely to be sufficient. However, if they  are married, ensuring that their spouse will be able to make decisions for the other should something happen is not necessarily automatic. If they have children, ensuring that the guardianship provisions of their will are correct is critical. If they have assets above $100,000, a properly funded trust, not just a properly written trust, is necessary to avoid probate and save their family money and time.
 The documents I draft for my clients are customized to meet their needs and accomplish their goals. The time spent talking with individuals, answering questions, explaining legal concepts and how things actually work when someone gets ill or passes away helps my clients make informed decisions based on personal and legal considerations. Additionally, when incidents occurs or when there are changes in situations they can return to an attorney and  have the documents updated or amended. When a person logs onto a website to draft their estate planning documents, they are met with choices and decisions but have no reliable resource to help guide them.
All of the documents you need can be drafted using Legalzoom or other online sites. However, they very clearly and loudly let you know that they do not stand by the documents and, unless you sue like the people in the article linked below, whether the documents do what you want them to do will only be known when they are needed. If the purpose of the trust is to protect and avoid the unknown, online legal documents end up being the greatest unknown.
 In the end, the investment of your time and money to secure your family, assets and your peace of mind, is one that should not be taken lightly. The maxim of “you get what you pay for” is not the entire story. However, each individual and family should take into consideration the hidden cost of an incomplete or unenforceable plan if it is done through an online service without any professional backing.
If you or a loved one are in need of setting up an estate plan, please give us a call or send us an email to get the process started. You’ll be surprised how easy it can be and how much value you will get from us.
 To read the rest of this newsletter or if you know anyone that might be interested in this E-newsletter, we would be grateful if you forwarded it to them,click here  WTE Newsletter Volume 10-10