Justin Jeppesen: What to Watch For in Online Estate Planning

Online, or do-it-yourself, estate planning seems like a responsible decision on the surface. Instead of making others guess what you would have wanted to see happen, you are providing guidance to those you will eventually leave behind.

If you dig a little deeper than surface level, you will start to see three general faults with the use of do-it-yourself estate planning.

First, online document preparing systems or services are not offering legal advice. “We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies,” this disclaimer is offered by the highly regarded Legalzoom.com. The purpose of adding this disclaimer is to drive home the point that no legal advice can be offered, so the product provided is as general as can possibly be. That means, your life and the circumstances you are facing has to be directly in-line with what the average person the service is being directed toward. Regarding estate planning, the biggest market is pre and post-retirement aged persons. What kinds of special circumstances can take you out of the average category? Any of the following:

  • Parents of minor children;

  • Business owners;

  • Blended families;

  • Parents of special-needs or financially immature children; and

  • People who own property in more than one state;

  • And many other potentials that can take the entire post to cover.

Second, for many clients, the creation of a Will or Trust is just the first step toward creating their estate plan. Your estate plan, whatever it is, needs to be funded with your assets. If you have created a Will, you should talk with your bank and financial advisor to ensure that your estate plan is consistent across all avenues of your assets. If you created a Trust, one of the reasons you probably did so is to avoid probate. However, the Trust needs to be funded with the probatable assets for those assets to avoid probate. That sentence can make you tongue tied, but some assets will go through probate unless they have been funded into a trust. Otherwise, your estate plan will be at odds and in conflict with how you currently own your assets. This is complex topic that is covered in our meetings.

Third, the false belief that you just saved time, money and hassle. This belief is that you can create a plan, for less money, without meetings, and without having to consult with anyone else. Often, the result of this type of plan is that the do-it-yourself estate plan is no better than Idaho’s plan for you. This plan, called intestate, is free, doesn’t require anytime to set up, and because of that there is no hassle. With DIY’s the impact that the plan they create is unknown until they pass away. Here, I wrote about two recent incidents where I reviewed DIY estate plans that would have had disastrous effects on the families of those that created them. These examples are a common experience for me. They have their roots in noble aspirations, but often end up costing more money, time, and hassle, either through a review and rewriting with an attorney or a will contest in probate court.

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.

Schedule a conversation with Justin Jeppesen to take the first step towards creating your complete estate plan! With our Free Initial Consultation we help our clients explore their own situations and plan for their futures. If you have more questions, we'd love to help! Contact Jeppesen Law now: (208) 477-1785.