DIY legal websites, like Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer, are attractive to consumers for two major reasons: they’re low-priced and convenient. These perceptions, although perhaps true in the near-term, often come at a serious cost to customers later on. As a quick Google search will reveal, countless people who have used these digital platforms to create estate planning documents are now wishing they had visited a law office instead. This is because, as the old platitude goes, you get what you pay for. Here are three reasons why handling your estate planning affairs online might come back to haunt you (and your family):
#1. Proper Estate Planning Requires Expertise
Unfortunately, creating a will isn’t as simple as just filling out a downloadable form. Without professional guidance, your chances of inadvertently making a grave mistake are higher than you might think. How about leaving part of your savings to your minor child? Well, there is a way to make sure your children will benefit from your finances once you’re gone, but leaving them a pile of cash without the proper documentation in place isn’t a good plan. Most of the time, people make these sorts of errors on their estate planning documents, not because they’re unintelligent, but because they’re not trained to think legally. Attorneys are. Having one draft your documents will ensure you don’t fall victim to avoidable mistakes.
#2. If Your Will Isn’t Executed Correctly, It’s Worthless
In order for estate planning documents to mean anything in the eyes of a judge, there are legal technicalities that must be satisfied. Unfortunately, it can be hard to track down a comprehensive list of these requirements. What makes them even more complicated is that such provisions vary state-by-state. For instance, some states require two witnesses to be present during the signing of a will, while others require three. Some states recognize oral wills, while others do not. Furthermore, some estate planning documents, such as Revocable Transfer on Death Deeds, need to be filed at a specific courthouse within a specific timeframe, otherwise they’re useless. When using online legal websites, you will likely not know about such regulations, and it matters. If your surviving family members take your will to court, and it doesn’t meet basic standards of acceptability, the judge will not recognize it as a valid document.
#3. Making Mistakes on Your Will May Cost Your Family Thousands of Dollars
Shoddy estate planning documents may result in a financial burden being shouldered by your family. For example, if your will is ineffectual because it wasn’t executed properly, your family will have to pay an attorney to satisfy additional legal requirements to administer your estate. The irony here is that probate expenses, when there is not a properly drafted will, vastly outweigh what it costs to hire an attorney to help you with your estate planning documents. So, why not just pay the lesser amount now and ensure your family won’t have to foot the bill later?
Last Thoughts on Legal Websites
As mentioned at the beginning, websites like Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer appear to be cheap and convenient. This perception, however, is misleading. In the end, using their services may cost you and your family much more time and money than you saved by using their services in the first place. Don’t let that be you. If you live in the Austin or San Antonio area and are interested in estate planning, business formation, or probate, please call Hailey-Petty Law Firm at (512) 910-8977 or (210) 570-2458 to schedule your free consultation.