Contact Us Today! (972) 712-1515

"The Blog"

Why Not Just Go Online and Create Your Own Estate Planning Docs?

Posted by Darryl V. Pratt | Sep 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

There are many software programs, as well as websites, that sell do-it-yourself estate planning documents. These websites and form tools seem to offer a convenient and cost-effective alternative to consulting with an estate planning attorney. But do they really meet your needs and protect your family? Is online, do-it-yourself estate planning worth the perceived upfront savings?

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

In all but the simplest scenarios, do-it-yourself estate planning is risky and can become a costly substitute for comprehensive in-person planning with a professional legal advisor. Typically, these online programs and services have significant limitations when it comes to gathering information needed to properly craft an estate plan. This can result in crucial defects that, sadly, won't become apparent until the situation becomes a legal and financial nightmare for your loved ones.

Creating your own estate plan without professional advice can also have unintended consequences. Bad or thoughtless documents can be invalid and/or useless when they are needed. For example, you can create a plan that has no instructions for when a beneficiary passes away or when a specific asset left to a loved one no longer exists. You may create a trust on your own but fail to fund it, resulting in your assets being tied up in probate courts, potentially for years. Worse yet, what you leave behind may then pass to those you did not intend.

Your family situation and assets are unique. Plus, each state has its own laws governing what happens when someone becomes incapacitated or dies. These nuances may not be adequately addressed in an off-the-shelf document. In addition, non-traditional families, or those with a complicated family arrangement, require more thorough estate planning. The options available in a do-it-yourself system may not provide the solutions that are necessary. A computer program or website cannot replicate the intricate knowledge a qualified local estate planning attorney will have and use to apply to your particular circumstances.

If you're a person of significant wealth, then concerns about income and estate taxes enter the picture too. In addition to the federal estate tax, some states have a separate estate tax systems with significantly different tax thresholds. An online estate planning website or program that prepares basic wills without taking into account the size of the estate can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased (and usually completely avoidable) tax liability. A qualified estate planning attorney will know how to structure your legal affairs to properly manage – or, in many cases, even avoid – the burden of the death tax as well as minimize the impact of ongoing income taxes.

One important aspect of estate planning is protecting adult children from the negative financial consequences of divorce, bankruptcy, lawsuits, or illness. An online planning tool will not take these additional steps into account when putting together what is usually a basic estate plan. Similarly, parents who have children or adult loved ones with special needs must take extra caution when planning. There are complicated rules regarding government benefits that these loved ones may receive that must be considered, so that valuable benefits are not lost due to an inheritance.

Consult an Estate Planning Attorney

No matter how good a do-it-yourself estate planning document may seem, it is no substitute for personalized advice. Estate planning is more than just document production. In many cases, the right legal solution to your situation may not be addressed by these do-it-yourself products – affecting not just you, but generations to come. To make sure you are fully protecting your family, contact us today at (972) 712-1515. We're here to help.

About the Author

Darryl V. Pratt

With over twenty (20) of experience as a dual-licensed Attorney and Certified Public Accountant, Darryl V. Pratt has practiced law in all areas of corporate and business law, non-profit law, estate planning, probate, guardianship, asset protection planning, bankruptcy (Chapters 7, 13 and 11), real estate, and taxation.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

DISCLAIMER Pratt Law Group, PLLC (PLG) has prepared the material on this web site, for informational purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice. Further, the material on this site does not create, and receipt does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. The information here is not intended to substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney. No person should act or rely on any information in this site without seeking the advice of an attorney. Members of the law firm of PLG are licensed to practice in various courts and jurisdictions; attorneys are specifically licensed to practice in state courts that are enumerated on their individual attorney profiles. We also have affiliations in particular cases with attorneys licensed in additional states. PLG does not offer any guarantee of case results. Although we are extremely proud of our excellent track record, past success does not guarantee success in any new or future case or client matter. This web site is considered advertising by the State Bar of Texas under the applicable law and ethical rules. The determination of the need for legal services and the choice of a lawyer are extremely important decisions and should not be based solely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise. Only those attorneys who state they are Board Certified in their profiles on this website are Board Certified. All other attorneys are not Board Certified. Darryl V. Pratt is the attorney responsible for this site. The principal office of PLG is 2591 Dallas Parkway, Suite 505, Frisco, Texas 75034. Please note that the transmission of an e-mail inquiry itself does not create an attorney-client relationship. PLG cannot serve as your counsel in any matter unless you and our firm expressly agree in writing that we serve as your attorney. You should also be aware that the Statute of Limitations (the deadline imposed by law within which you may bring a lawsuit) may have expired or may severely limit the time remaining for you to file any potential claims you may have. Time is of the essence. If you believe you have a possible legal case, it is important that you seek out legal advice as soon as possible.

Menu