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Should I hire an attorney or go on-line for my Will or Trust?

I had a client in earlier today to create a will with a trust for her nephew's benefit. The testamentary trust we created was very complex, to say the least, and lots of legal nuance due to various issues. My client's sister asked why she would go to an attorney when you could get it done cheaper on-line? 

So why would someone go to an estate planning attorney to get estate planning documents done (i.e, a will, revocable living trust, durable powers of attorney, advance directives) when on-line document services (such as Legalzoom and Rocketlawyer) can be done cheaper?

First, let's be realistic - ask an attorney if you need an attorney and the answer is most likely "yes." Attorneys need to eat, pay their bills and retire just like the rest of the population. But if you dig deeper on this, the reality is that you are paying an attorney for their time and expertise in creating an estate plan. This is the secret that hiring an attorney will tell you - estate planning is not just about the documents themselves. Estate planning is not documentation planning - any idiot can fill out a form on a computer. The reality is that your estate planning documents must work in conjunction with your assets!  The lay public thinks that estate planning is about having good forms but attorneys know this: forms do not solve problems or create sound estate plans.

If you want an estate plan that does not work, then, by all means, go with a cheaper, on-line form. When you are dead, only your heirs will know the problems you left behind. If, however, you want an estate plan that works with your assets (i.e., the plan that you actually want), then go with a good estate planning attorney.

This is also the further reality - most estate planning attorneys do not fear the on-line competition!  We do not fear it because estate planning is very complicated. We know that we can get hired now, to make things easier for you and your loved ones, or later to clean up the mess when you die or become incapaciated.  I have been practicing law for 17 years and I truly learn something new every day. I attend about 25 hours of continuing education every year. I read newsletters, publications and perform constant research to stay on top of the law. I know that on-line forms cannot replace me - but I also know that it will be even more expensive when you die.  That is right - I know that I will be here to clean up the mess when you die and I will get paid more later - with either an unexpected probate or estate litigation. This is not a cynical point of view - it is a reality that legal issues are complicated and more than just having forms.

So this is the summation:

  • You do not know what you do not know, and how can an on-line form educate you to make the best decisions for you?
  • I perform many hours of training every year to stay on top of the law and legal trends - does my on-line competition do this? (no, it does not!)
  • We work together to make sure your assets work in conjuction with your documents.
  • We are available for phone calls and questions after you sign your documents.
  • Probate and probate litigation attorneys love on-line will creation as this will make them more money in the future.
  • Your estate planning documents are some of the most important decisions you can make in your entire lifetime - do you want to leave them up to chance or with a well trained professional?
  • Not all attorneys are created equal - make sure you hire the right estate planning attorney.

If you liked this article, you may want to get our Free Report on Why Most Florida Estate Plans Fail.  This report highlights the differences between good and bad estate planning attorneys, among other estate planning truths.

D. Rep DeLoach III
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Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
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