Most people want to avoid speaking with a lawyer regardless of the issue. The law is adversarial system where ultimately one side prevails over another following some dispute. The goal of estate planning, however, is to avoid or at least minimize that conflict. Today there is movement toward “do it yourself” legal products like Legal Zoom and other type of kits sold online or in your local super store. There are “do it yourself” products for divorce, personal injury and even criminal defense! I believe that this movement started with the estate planning area of the law.
The movement started with estate planning because people viewed the estate planning process as simply filling out forms and checking boxes. Unlike other areas of the law, there isn’t a judge or another attorney so why use a lawyer and spend all that money! Fill out some documents in the comfort of your home or office and if you don’t understand something call question “hotline” and speak to a real lawyer (maybe) for no additional charge! That hotline lawyer will probably answer your question but will that really end the issue. Did you miss a more serious issue? If you don’t understand the issue, you can’t ask the right questions even to the best attorney in the word. Estate planning is more than just filling out forms and you should expect more than that from your estate planning attorney. Every family’s situation is different regardless of the size of your estate. Money is only one issue in an estate plan. You need to be concerned with not only money but property ownership, property transfers, guardianship, long term care eligibility, and the quality of life of your survivors during your final years. If you believe that a product like Legal Zoom will provide guidance in all of those areas, be prepared for disappointment!
Your estate planning attorney is an advisor and not just someone who drafts your Last Will and Testament following a consultation. You want an attorney who goes beyond just filling out forms and one who focuses the changes to your plan that will occur as you age. Simply doing a Will isn’t enough. A Will that you make 10 or even 25 years before you die will often fail to take into account life changes that occur to all of us. The right estate planning attorney will discuss these changes and provide guidance that will maximize the benefits of assets you’ve worked hard to earn for you and your family. Will it cost more than some boxed product? YES!
Hiring the right attorney will cost you more money but making the right decisions will literally save your family thousands of dollars in lost assets and legal fees to correct the problems created because of the solution you thought you were buying at the local office super store. If most people knew that using boxed solution could cost them their home or retirement savings, they wouldn’t even look at pick up the box. Spend time, make the financial investment and do your estate plan the right way. Like a trip to the doctor’s office, everyone wants to avoid it but it’s the right way to do it. Early prevention and treatment works in medicine and in the law!
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