Don’t Try This at Home!
(or Why You Really, Really, Really Should Use an Attorney)
Let’s be honest. It can be very tempting to use one of those online legal sites for any kind of legal form.
And for estate planning forms, like a will or trust, it’s even more of a temptation.
But there are several good reasons you should work with an actual attorney instead of trying to do it yourself. Here are just a few:
Reason #1: Online sites only provide forms…not legal advice
They’re actually very open and honest about this.
LegalZoom (probably the most widely known legal site) has a disclaimer at the bottom of their website:
“We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.”
These sites only provide fill-in-the-blank forms for the stated price. Need a legal term explained or advice on choosing the right form? They’ll gladly provide it…for an extra fee.
Reason #2: Your attorney doesn’t just fill out forms
Your will has to go through probate. A trust has to be able to stand up in court.
All it takes is one missing signature or initial…and a judge can invalidate the whole thing. Then you’re back to square one.
The biggest part of an attorney’s job is to make sure all of the proper signatures and initials are in place. That includes getting it properly witnessed and/or notarized (and no…your spouse can’t witness it for you!).
That way, it will be ready to withstand the required legal scrutiny.
Reason #3: Online Legal Documents May Not Be Up to Date
Every state has their own standards for legal documents. And they can change at any time.
Use an outdated form for your will, and the courts can invalidate it.
Your attorney’s job includes making sure your estate documents are correct and will pass the scrutiny of the courts after you pass away
Reason #4: Your Estate is Different Than Every Other Estate
Wills and other estate documents may be fairly standard documents…but your actual estate is as unique as an individual snowflake. And your estate documents need to account for this.
There are a number of situations that can complicate your estate documents:
- Do you have minor children? Your will must name a guardian for them. You’ll probably also need to have a trust set up to help with their expenses until they become legal adults.
- Second marriage? Your divorce removed your first spouse from the estate, but children from that marriage have precedence over spouse #2 in the eyes of the law unless your will says otherwise.
- Own any property or assets beyond your house, like a vacation home or investment property?
And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Your attorney charged with making sure your estate is properly documented and will pass legal muster.
Reason #5: Don’t Save Money Now, and Make Your Estate Pay More Later
You may think you’re saving money by using an online source for your estate documents instead of an attorney.
The odds are, you’ll save money now, but your estate will spend a lot more later when (not if) there are issues during probate.
As any estate planning attorney will tell you, it’s better to make sure your estate plan documents are done right while you’re still alive. If your will is invalidated during probate, a lot of expensive attorney time will be needed to decide who inherits what.
In other words: you can pay me now, or you can pay me more later.
If you’d like to learn more about how to have your estate documents done right, feel free to contact me either through my website (https://mmconnollylaw), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or via my Facebook or LinkedIn pages.
Remember: we can’t predict your future, but we can help you protect your legacy.