Online Estate Planning: Is It Enough?

Trust lawyers are well aware of the variety of online estate planning tools available to those in Virginia and beyond, such as Quicken WillMaker, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer. The variety of products available can create a false sense of security, however, when an individual believes he or she has made adequate plans for the estate.  Recent Consumer Reports findings determined that the tools they reviewed were not robust enough to plan for situations that were even slightly complex.

For example, the high divorce rate in the US means that many individuals wish to provide for children from multiple relationships.  Most of the software reviewed by Consumer Reports could not meet the hypothetical clients’ specific wishes when it came to this subject.  In these “blended family” situations, the estate planning tools were too rigid in their options. This can result in accidentally leaving out a child, or favoring them unequally and causing hurt feelings.

A number of other problems were uncovered in this experiment, which is not a big surprise to most estate planning lawyers.  Each family and individual’s situation is highly dependent upon so many factors that it is nearly impossible for a computer program to anticipate them all.  Additionally, engaging with a live person means that there is a capacity for human understanding that the programs simply cannot replicate.

This interpersonal relationship is every bit as important as the documents that are created as a result.  From the lawyer’s extensive education and experience, he or she is able to guide clients into creating documents that are truly relevant to their particular circumstances.  In the world of estate planning, “one size fits all” simply doesn’t work.

One of the biggest problems with online estate planning tools is the fact that they seem to open so many estates up to the probate process.  As a result, families are left waiting for the courts to rule on decisions that the deceased believed had already been made.  Unfortunately, those decisions don’t always reflect the true wishes or spirit of the documents generated through the software.  Just as devastating is that fact that the probate process can be very expensive, thereby decreasing the amount of inheritance that beneficiaries do eventually receive.

It is commendable that so many people are now taking an interest in the estate planning process.  It is an unfortunate reality, however, that using online tools generally won’t be enough to plan for the actuality of your given situation.  Without a doubt, the best and safest approach is to develop a relationship with a trusted estate planning lawyer who can provide the expertise required to truly meet the needs of today’s modern families.

Learn more about Basic Estate Planning Here!

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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