Beware of Bargain Estate Planning – By: Allyson S. Heller, Esq.
Here’s a scenario I see all too often in our practice: A couple comes into my office to have their living trust reviewed. They tell me they responded to a mailer offering a steep discount to draft an estate planning package, but after signing their documents, they felt uneasy. As I go through each document, I see the worry set into their faces. Trustees are in the wrong order, names are misspelled, the distribution scheme is off, and title to the real property was not transferred to the trust. Ultimately, they end up having to pay our firm to redraft the documents.
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and estate planning is no exception. Although opting for bargain mailers offering estate planning packages for a few hundred dollars might seem like a great deal, the groups behind them are generally high-volume law groups known as “trust mills,” and the documents they generate tend to be boilerplate one-size-fits-all templates. Likewise, online do-it-yourself trusts offered by sites like legalzoom.com and rocketlawyer.com provide pre-generated fillable forms that treat every person’s situation the same.
The problem with these bargain legal providers is that, while they may save you money in the short-term, their deficiencies can end up costing you considerably more down the line. Improperly drafted powers of attorney may be rejected by financial institutions, and poorly drafted trusts can lead to a contentious administration. Finally, failure to fund the trust may subject your estate to a costly and time-consuming probate, improper legal advice can result in tax complications.
Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all area. It’s important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney, who will work with you to prepare an estate plan that addresses your unique situation. At our offices, we understand that every client’s needs are different, which is why we tailor our documents to meet your needs, not the other away around.