I and other attorneys at the office often get the question from potential clients regarding whether they should hire us or use an online drafting service to create their estate planning documents. Below are three reasons to hire an estate planning attorney rather than use an online service.
Reason One – Value Proposition
The first reason is surprising to many clients – you don’t get very much for what you pay with an online drafting service. Unfortunately, online drafting services successfully market themselves as an alternate or substitute for an estate planning attorney. However, a simple read of any online drafting service’s terms of service will let you know they are not an attorney substitute. For example, the most commonly used online drafting service’s terms of service state that the site does not provide legal advice, opinions, or recommendations or apply the law to the facts of your particular situation, and are not a substitute for the services of an attorney. I don’t think I could have stated it better myself – online drafting services don’t apply the law, don’t analyze you or your family’s circumstances, and most importantly don’t provide advice or recommendations. In short, the document you receive from an online drafting service is not for you – it may or may not comply with applicable state and federal law and may or may not fit your circumstances. This is setting yourself, your family, and your estate up for problems.
Reason Two – Problems with Documents
Recently, I had a client who was terminally ill. He used an online drafting service to create what he saw as a simple last will and testament. Unfortunately, the document did not comply with Oregon’s signature and notarization formalities. This had the potential to invalidate his last will and testament during probate and opened the door for a family member or even a creditor to challenge his intentions. In short, this individual thought he was saving time and money, but in the long run, there is the potential that his wishes will not be carried out and the estate probate will be very costly. Similarly, I commonly have people ask me to review documents they have drafted using an online service. In the majority of instances, I find substantive and technical issues with their documents. In these circumstances, a new document will need to be drafted at which point they say something along the lines of, “I wish I had just come to you in the first place.”
Reason Three – Time and Money
I have lost count on how many clients say “I have a simple life and need a simple plan.” Later, these same clients often feel we discussed issues and outcomes that they would never have thought about on their own. Estate planning is difficult. The law governing the area is complex with both state and federal implications, and every family and individual has particular circumstances unique to them. Estate planners know what questions to ask to efficiently bring out issues that may impact your plan. Also, please keep in mind that how you structure your estate plan may determine how much you and your estate will pay in taxes, what basis your beneficiaries will receive in your assets, and how quickly assets will pass to your beneficiaries.
In summary, there are many reasons not to use an online drafting service to create your estate planning documents. It is worth your time and money to invest in a properly drafted estate plan with the help of an attorney in your state. The worst thing that I see in practice is where an individual has created an estate plan that for whatever reason just doesn’t work. It is my opinion that using an online drafting service greatly increases the chance of creating an estate planning document that doesn’t accomplish your goals and objectives, or even worse, is determined to be invalid under state law. We are here to help craft an estate plan customized to you in an efficient and economical manner.
This information has been provided by Nay & Friedenberg Attorney Aaron Cilek. Aaron would be happy to assist you in customizing an estate plan to fit your specific needs. Please feel free to contact us at (503) 245-0894 to schedule an appointment. We would be happy to help!