Some Online or special software prepared Estate Planning Documents can work well. Others, not so well.
I tend to see three problems that Online documents generally fall victim to:
First, inconsistent and sometimes contradictory provisions can be included, many times by accident. Often these Online “form” Wills or Trusts have alternative provisions covering the same topic. The purpose is for the person creating the document to choose between the alternatives. If the creator doesn’t understand that purpose, these conflicting provisions will be added to the final formalized Will. What unwittingly happens is that the creator intended to leave clear instructions for his or her estate, but in some cases actually inflicted greater harm than not drafting an Estate Plan.
Second, the aspect of Estate Planning that requires the most care is hardly given a second thought in Online documents, the Signing. Many perfectly good documents can become invalid only because the necessary formalities were not observed while the document was being signed. Generally, a person should gather two witnesses and a notary public together. Have all of them sign at the same time and in the presence of each other and then have the notary certifies that he or she watched the document being signed by all the others.
Finally, certain people believe saving a few hundred dollars on documents that are intended to direct the disbursement and receipt of their lifetime accomplishments is a great deal. However, they realized the importance of creating an Estate Plan, but didn’t quite understand that importance or they would not have taken that shortcut. Also, the choice of guardians for minor children is often of even greater importance than the disposition of one’s possessions. To cut corners on a document that will determine the family in which your minor children will be raised is a foolish choice.
While not proclaiming that it cannot be done, you should be very cautious about using an Online document for a task as important as this, especially without the availability of Counsel. To me the biggest concern is that you generally will not know your Estate Plan is defective until after there is nothing you can do to change them.
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