Recently, I have received an unusually high number of clients setting up appointments to review their estate planning documents that they created themselves using either Legalzoom or Nolo websites. This caused me to look at those websites and see what is so attractive to prospective customers. The one thing they both highly advertise is price.
After reviewing these clients documents, the following three themes routinely appeared.
First, these documents are legal documents, with each paragraph carrying significant authority in the case of the creator’s death. However, the creator is almost never legally trained. The way the questions were answered caused multiple paragraph to contradict each other, raising the likelihood of a future will contest. What started out as an attempt to leave directions after someone passed away, will likely lead to court battle over what you actually meant regarding the conflicting terms in the will.
Second, these documents are so vague that they could pass as my will or they could pass as your will. Either way the document would say exactly the same thing, just with a few changed names. If you decide to leave directions after you are gone in a will, don’t you think those directions should be tailored to you and your family? To ask it another way, is you family the exact same as your neighbor’s family? If not, why should your estate planning documents look exactly the same?
Third, these companies leave the signing ceremony completely up to the person buying the documents. This phase is the most often disputed aspect of estate planning. The signing ceremony helps clarify that the proper number of witnesses signed the documents, that the documents were properly notarized, and witnessed properly. Without a properly held signing ceremony, there is no way to dispute a claim that the will is invalid.
After looking at the websites I see the draw. With many of the offers provided, there is the potential for discounted estate planning. The caution though is, you may feel like you are saving money buying a document on-line as opposed to paying more for counseling and tailored documents, but you are wading in waters unknown to you. Many on-line documents are ticking time bombs and you will never know about it. Your family will be the ones left fighting over contradictory terms, vague directions, or arguing where or not the will was ever even valid. Yes, on-line wills can work, but the risk versus reward is greatly unbalanced.
If you have an on-line will or trust that you would like an attorney to review, or you were contemplating a will or trust and would like to speak with an attorney, call Jeppesen Law today for a free initial consultation! 208-477-1785.