It sounds nice to be able to create legal documents, like wills and estate plans, online using a template or cookie-cutter form. Even though some of the websites will let you “customize” their forms, the forms, and automated legal solutions often leave out important details, clauses, and assets. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another person, and if you aren’t an elder law attorney or estate planning attorney, you don’t know what you don’t know. It takes a human to dig into the details to ensure the documents are inclusive and effective.
In fact, there are numerous court cases that have resulted from people using online legal services. The money families think they save by doing estate planning documents themselves, they end up spending from the estate to fight the missing details and mistakes in the DIY estate plan.
Here are just two examples of what can happen when you don’t have an experienced estate planning attorney to help you with your estate planning documents:
In the case of Aldrich v. Basile, 136 So. 3d 530 (Fla. 2014), a Florida woman intended to bequeath her assets to her brother. Using an online form, she listed her bank account and her assets at that time. After executing the will, she inherited more money and property. Without a residuary clause stating where those assets should go, when she passed away, the assets passed intestate, which is the same thing that would have happened if she didn’t have a will. The court ruled that her nieces, who were not named in the will as beneficiaries, could claim their right to the estate since the will did not have a residual clause or additional bequest.
In the case of Webster v. LegalZoom Inc., No. BC438637, Oct. 1, 2014, a California woman brought a class action lawsuit against LegalZoom. She trusted LegalZoom to help create a will and trust for her Uncle and she believed the trust was legally binding and that if she had any issues, their customer service would be able to help. Unfortunately, the financial institutions would not accept the LegalZoom trust as a valid document and it was not properly witnessed. The costs to hire an estate planning attorney to fix the issues cost the Uncle’s estate thousands. LegalZoom settled the lawsuit.
Whether your estate planning needs are simple or complex, elder law and estate planning attorney Lisa DiFranza can help you navigate the dynamics and questions of wills, trusts, living trusts, revocable trusts, and probate.
Some of the important questions include, is your estate taxable under state or federal law? Do you have tax-deferred retirement plans? Do you understand how to fund a revocable trust? Do you have a disabled child or children from another marriage?
If you have questions about your estate plan or need help creating your estate planning documents, schedule a consultation with Lisa today. Lisa works directly with every client to ensure that our clients receive the guidance and support they need to achieve their goals.