In this modern day and age there are so many resources readily available to us online, it can be overwhelming. Sure, you can “Google” anything and get so much information that your head will spin, but in the end, you don’t know what you don’t know. How do you determine which sources are reliable and which ones are just a marketing tactic about what you supposedly need? While the internet can sometimes be a good source of information, we all have to be mindful of the limitations of any online purchase.
While it may be appealing to “pay less” to get your estate planning done via Legal Zoom or some other online provider, take a moment to think about what you may be risking before making that decision. Estate planning is one of the most important types of insurance you will ever purchase in your life. At a minimum, your estate plan insures (i) that you will be taken care of both financially and medically if you ever become incapacitated; (ii) that the people you trust will be in the position to make decisions for you if you ever become incapacitated; (iii) that your assets will be distributed to the right people in the right manner upon your death; (iv) that your minor children will be taken care of by the right people upon your death; and, (v) that your wishes will be honored upon your death.
Given the vast amount of “coverage” this type of insurance gets you, do you really want to take the chance that some computer-generated forms are going to work the way they claim? You are quite literally insuring your life and the life of your loved ones upon your death. Most estate planning attorneys charge flat fees for their services which is incredibly reasonable compared to a lot of other types of insurance we pay for on a monthly or annual basis without blinking. A flat fee cost translates to paying a one-time premium for an invaluable insurance plan that will last you several years, if not a decade or more, depending on your life circumstances.
Most if not all online estate planning providers include fine print language disclaiming that their product will even work. Here is the first item under Legal Zoom’s Terms of Service: “I understand and agree that LegalZoom is not a law firm or an attorney, may not perform services performed by an attorney, and its forms or templates are not a substitute for the advice or services of an attorney. Rather, I am representing myself in this legal matter. No attorney-client relationship or privilege is created with LegalZoom.” Even the online providers agree that working with them is no substitute for working with an experienced attorney.
If you purchase an estate plan online what you are getting is forms, not actual estate planning. A form, by definition, is a document that has a fixed order of words, often with blanks to be completed. An estate planning attorney will talk with you about your specific life circumstances and estate planning goals, and then take the time to educate and advise you about the options best suited to address your unique needs. The final product (i.e. the documents) is the culmination of all the advice you received from your attorney and the informed decisions you made based on that advice.
Our approach at Ally Legal Planning is to sit down with each client and take the time to really listen to each of their concerns and goals, to talk through all available options and answer all questions before advising our clients on what recommendation would best suit their specific needs. We point out things our clients may not have thought about so they can implement a more comprehensive plan. If you are interested in discussing your estate planning needs, contact us for a free consultation.