I can bank, shop, and communicate from behind the screen of a computer or cell phone… Why can’t I complete my estate planning through a do-it-yourself online platform? While your preferred search engine might be where your estate planning hunt begins, don’t let a keyboard be where it ends.
The incredible amount of information that the internet brings to one’s fingertips has substantially impacted the practice of law. The area of Elder Law is no exception, but it holds its own unique technological pitfalls. Many online providers of legal services offer basic Wills, Health Care Directives, and even Power of Attorney forms. Unfortunately, in the area of estate planning/elder law, the “one size fits all” resource can be misleading. Often, these documents poorly reflect the individual’s wishes or even conflict with laws that completely invalidate them. Outside of the language of the documents themselves, there are very specific rules and formal processes that guide how to make such documents effective. Even a draft covering the simplest of situations may have unintended consequences.
Many people cite the cost of legal advice as a reason for skipping a visit to their Elder Law Attorney. Sadly, in many of these situations, that decision results in a more costly outcome. Estate planning can be complex and difficult to understand without a legal education. Residuary clauses, attestation, and probate are foreign terminology to most of us. If mistakes are made, significant portions of documents are missing, or key terms are ambiguous, the cost of clarification can be far greater than the cost of an attorney. This monetary cost does not bring into account the frustration, time, and emotional anguish that court proceedings can create. Professionally drafted instruments are designed to offer clarity and take the burden of such situations off your families’ shoulders.
An attorney can be helpful in avoiding these problems in a multitude of ways. Foremost, they help by asking questions and gaining information that you may not actually know is important in regard to drafting a Will, Health Care Directive, or Power of Attorney. Attorneys are also able to explain the complex concepts and unique language in ways that can aid in making decisions that fully reflect your wishes. With that increased understanding, attorneys can then tailor the document language in a manner that best sets out your wishes while remaining compliant with state law.
DIY projects are fantastic for unique decorations and home improvement tasks, but your estate planning should be trusted to an experienced Elder Law Attorney.