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How Safe Are Online Wills and Trusts?

More and more people are beginning to realize the importance of having an estate plan in place, regardless of their age or financial status. The days of thinking only the rich or the elderly need an estate plan are slowing going away as more people address the issue head-on.

 

Along with this new attitude towards estate planning is the saturation of online websites that claim to offer solid legal advice in many areas of law, including estate planning. One of the factors used to entice people to utilize these websites is that they are much cheaper than retaining the services of a qualified estate planning attorney. However, the old adage “You get what you pay for,” definitely applies to these online DIY legal websites and many customers have found out the hard way that their finances are far from being protected the way the website promised.

 

Legal Document Service Websites

 

Although these legal document services websites seem very similar to law firm websites, offering similar services, they are far from being as professional as utilizing the services of an attorney.

 

The first thing a potential customer should know is that the majority of these services do not have attorneys like a law firm does. The people who are providing advice to customers are referred to as “document assistants.” Before someone can become an attorney, they are required to go through years of education and training and they are not allowed to practice law or offer legal advice until they have passed their state bar exam. Document assistants are not required to go through any of these requirements.

 

An estate planning attorney can examine the circumstances of each client’s situation and financial circumstances and determine what estate planning tools will work best for them, including different types of trusts, living wills, and more.

 

Not only can the document specialists not offer any legal advice, these companies cannot even guarantee that the documents they are providing you will be valid in the state the customer lives in. Consequently, anyone using these services is taking an unnecessary risk that the estate plans they put in place using the online company’s documents will even be legal.

 

For example, a person makes a will using an online legal document form. In the will, the person leaves a certain an expensive strand of pearls to a niece they have a special relationship with. However, when the person dies and the will is submitted to the courts for the probate process, the online will is found to be invalid. Instead of the pearls going to the niece as the decedent wanted, the court will now decide what will happen to the pearls – as well as the rest of the decedent’s assets and property – because the will is no good.

Whenever a trust or will is proven to be invalid, it can be very expensive for families to now have to deal with a contested trust or will. Instead of saving money by using the cheaper, online service, the legal costs can run into the thousands to straighten out the legal mess created by document assistants’ creations. This can all be avoided by having a professional estate planning attorney take care of all your trust, will, and other legal needs. In the event that you need an attorney, like a wills and trusts lawyer Scottsdale, AZ turns to, do not hesitate to contact one to make sure you are in the best position to tackle your case.


 

Thank you to Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for providing their insight and authoring this piece on estate planning.