We are conditioned to think that we can do just about anything on our own with some type of tool that we obtain online. This mentality extends into the estate planning realm, because there are websites that sell generic legal documents of all kinds, including simple wills and trusts.
Why would people rely on these sketchy “solutions” that sound too good to be true?
The popular website Caring.com conducts research on an ongoing basis to gauge the estate planning preparedness of American adults. They found that just 32 percent of adults in this country have estate plans in place, which is 10 percent less than the figure for 2017.
You would expect very young adults to be unprepared, but they found that a mere 27.2 percent of people that are between the ages of 35 and 54 had wills or trusts. This is the prime age group for parents of dependent children, so this is a disturbing statistic.
Older folks that are 55 years of age and older must be well prepared, right? In fact, about 52 percent of people in this age group that responded did not have any estate planning documents at all.
They asked respondents if they thought estate planning was important, and most of them said that it was, but they tend to procrastinate for one reason or another.
Because of this phenomenon, the thought that you can plan your own estate in a few minutes using a download is appealing on the surface. This being stated, there are some reasons why you should take pause before you embrace these DIY notions.
You May Overlook Better Options
If you decide to purchase a will template online to serve as a homemade estate plan, you are eschewing all other options. Even if you execute a document that would be legal, a will is not always going to be the right choice as an asset transfer vehicle.
A trust can be a better option, even if you are not extraordinarily wealthy. One problem with a will is the fact that you would be leaving lump sum inheritances, and there would be no asset protection. This can be a source of concern if you are going to be leaving money to someone that is not a good money manager.
Another drawback is the estate administration process that would unfold if you use a will to state your final wishes. The document would be admitted to probate, and the executor that you name would act as the administrator.
This process will take about nine months to run its course at minimum, and no inheritances can be distributed while it is underway. It is a public proceeding, so anyone can access the records, and there are a number of different expenses that accumulate during probate.
A revocable living trust is another option, and you do not lose control of assets in this type of trust, because you can act as the trustee. You could protect the principal from the beneficiary’s creditors, and you could instruct trustee to distribute limited assets on an incremental basis.
This is one of many different types of trusts that can be utilized. The right choice will depend upon the circumstances, and this is why it is wise to discuss your options with a licensed attorney.
Cognitive impairment is common among elders, and individuals with serious medical conditions sometimes become unable to communicate. Your estate plan should address these eventualities, and you may fail to do so if you do not receive professional guidance.
An incapacity plan will include a living will, which is a document that is used to state your life support preferences. You should add a durable power of attorney to empower someone to make medical decisions on your behalf that are not related to life support.
A HIPAA release should be included to give doctors the freedom to share your medical information with the health care agent.
When it comes to financial decision-making, if you have a living trust, you can name a disability trustee when you create the trust agreement. For property that is not in a trust, you should add a durable power of attorney for property.
Follow the Recommendations of Experts
Consumer Reports is a name that carries a lot of weight because of the quality of their objective research. Some years ago, they engaged legal professors to examine wills that were created using do-it-yourself downloads and worksheets that were obtained online.
The educators found flaws, and they stated that unexpected negative circumstances can arise when these tools are used by laypeople. Consumer Reports advised their readers to steer clear of DIY estate planning notions.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
There is no reason to go it alone without any legal guidance when help is just a phone call away. If you are ready to work with an attorney to create a truly effective estate plan, you can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 860-548-1000.