With all of the media about “Online Wills”, “Digital Wills” and “Online Estate Planning” it could be tempting to think you can do your Estate Planning yourself, Online! And, maybe you can. But, if you do, you need to know the potential pitfalls. Online Estate Planning could be a big trap for the unwary and actually leave your family worse off than if you had done nothing at all.
First, before you do any of your own Online Estate Planning, it’s critical to understand your family dynamics, the nature of your assets, and what the state of Florida would say should happen to your assets in the event something happens to you. You see, whether or not you do Estate Planning, the state will always have a plan for your assets if you become incapacitated or when you die. You should know what that plan is before so that you know whether or not you want to change it.
So, here are some questions you may be asking yourself…
Don’t I Need a Will and Can’t I Just Do It Online?
Here’s the funny thing about Estate Planning: everyone thinks they need this legal document the most, when it fact, it’s the least needed.
Every person over the age of 18 does need SOME Estate Planning. A Will is always a good starting point because it will say who gets what and who is in charge of distributing what you have. However, if Florida’s default law would have given your assets to the same people you would have chosen, and the power to the people you would have named anyways, then an Online Will probably would have done nothing valuable for you at all.
One thing is for sure, a Will does NOT keep your family out of court. And, if drafted improperly, it could require the person you’ve named to handle your property to get a bond, which is like an insurance policy. The executor of your estate can have a hard time getting a bond if his or her credit score is not very good. And, if your named executor cannot get a bond, it would then mean the court would have to appoint an executor, and that can be costly for your estate. This is just one of example of how having a Will prepared online, can create more unnecessary expenses for your loved ones. Unfortunately, all of the Online Will preparation solutions I’ve reviewed never mention this drawback.
So, the answer to your question is Yes!
You can do your own Will Online, but at what potential expense for your loved ones?
What is the problem with Online Wills?
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Online Estate Plans (and even many estate plans created by lawyers) usually include three to five basic documents: a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive, possibly a Trust, and a Legal Guardian Nomination, if you have minor children.
To be perfectly honest, completing these documents without counsel is simply not a sufficient guarantee that your estate will be executed as simply, affordably, and effectively as you would wish.
For example; are you sure there isn’t some missing consideration that could lead to turmoil as your family tries to figure it out? Did you know that most family fights are not over money, but rather over lack of clarity? Have you taken into account all your extended family, including stepchildren and ex-spouses? What about all the personal, sentimental items you want to pass on to your children?
I have seen far too many scenarios where seniors, even those who had some Estate Planning done, get caught up in the court system or even declared incompetent. At that point, the court will have to appoint a guardian, who then drains the accounts. In many cases, the assets are depleted before they can even get to their kids. You don’t want that to happen to you or your family, right? Therefore, a DIY Will won’t keep that from happening.
What about making sure your family knows “what” you have and “where” it is? An Online Will definitely won’t tell your family that. Right now, there’s somewhere between $49 billion and $80 billion being held in state departments of unclaimed property across the United States because someone died and their family lost track of their assets. In fact, in the state of Florida, there is a staggering $2 Billion of unclaimed property.
So, how can you be sure you’ve got everything covered, legally?
With Online Wills and DIY Estate Planning documents, you wouldn’t even know what questions to ask to uncover the potential risks to the people you love, who deserve to receive what you’ve created in your life, without a big mess.
Think about this: do you know anyone who has lost family relationships because, after a loved one died, the family ended up in an irreversible fight? Maybe this has even happened in your own family. The financial and emotional consequences can be devastating.
And, it’s all unnecessary.
Yes, even if there are attorneys on staff at these Online companies, they don’t get to know you and your family dynamics enough to spot the real issues that could arise. They are, instead, focused on a one-size-fits-all solution and easy answers to complex issues.
What is the Kind of Help Your Family Deserves?
Even lawyers who specialize in Estate Planning often base their work on template documents, and have limited skills in getting to the heart of your family matters. Even if they are well-intentioned, they’re working with an old, traditional system that was born around the same time as word processing, and the lawyer’s focus is still very much on having the “best” documents. But, the documents are only as good as the understanding a lawyer has about your family dynamics, the nature of your assets, how the law will apply to your situation, and how the documents can be written as simple as possible to achieve your desired wishes. You need much more than just a set of four or five filled-out template documents to address all those complexities. The way we see it is, if you want things to be as simple as possible for your loved ones, when something happens to you, you want your trusted adviser to prepare an Estate Plan that achieves your desired objectives.
Here, at Vázquez Law, we have specific training in how to educate you, empower you, and support you to make the right decisions for your loved ones, while we get to know what really matters to you.
We do this through a Zoom, Virtual PEACE Estate Planning Session process. If, as a result of the process, we see that you really do have a very simple situation, and you want to create your documents yourself Online, we will support you to do just that. If, as a result of the Zoom, Virtual PEACE Estate Planning Session you decide you do need us to draft a plan for you, we’ll support you to choose the right planning fee for you.
Our office only takes 4 families through the Zoom, Virtual PEACE Estate Planning Session process each month, so we can ensure that the clients we work with get the attention they need to create a plan that actually works for the people they love.
Together, we will inventory your assets, ensuring they are all owned in a way that will keep your family out of court (if you wish) and out of conflict (which you definitely want); and ensure everyone named in your plan has what they need and understands your choices. Most importantly, we will ensure that you understand your plan, and that you pass along more than just your money.
DIY Estate Planning is risky! While it may be better than nothing, it may also be worse. And, it won’t be until after you are gone that your loved ones find out that answer. If you want to do the right thing by your loved ones, you have two options for how to get started:
- Schedule a Zoom, Virtual PEACE Estate Planning Session by clicking on this link:
It’s normally $750, but if you call and tell us you read this article and commit to doing just a little bit of homework ahead of time, we’ll waive the Planning Session fee.
- If you just want to talk, schedule a No-Charge, 15-Minute Call by clicking on this link: https://vazquezlaw.as.me/NO-CHARGE15-MinuteCall
At Vázquez Law, we don’t just draft documents. We ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, both for yourself and your loved ones. As your trusted advisor, we can help you articulate your wishes for your future and legally protect your loved ones and finances for years to come. That’s why we offer a Zoom, Virtual PEACE Estate Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.
Contact us today at 305.440.1888 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to get the process underway by scheduling a Zoom, Virtual PEACE Estate Planning Session.
Disclaimer: I am not your lawyer unless you have paid me for legal advice and we have signed an agreement. I am a licensed attorney in the state of Florida. The information provided here is solely for educational purposes only, and not legal advice. You should absolutely consult with a lawyer before making any legal decision for yourself or your family. If you do want to work with a lawyer, I strongly recommend considering a lawyer who has the heart of a counselor, and specific training on how to get families talking about hard subjects, with great ease.