There are two key reasons why you should exercise caution before using an on-line estate plan generating service provider:
1. Those companies do not provide legal advice. In the world of the internet, where almost all of human knowledge is available at your fingertips, it can be tempting to use those on line service providers and count on yourself to learn what you need to know from the internet. In some simpler cases, that may even make sense. However, fairly simple mistakes can be quite costly and/or needlessly complicated. For example, in recent years, with a lower estate tax exemption than applies today, it was more common to create "A/B" trusts where the property was divided into the "bypass" and "survivor's" shares after the death of the first spouse. This was done explicitly for estate tax avoidance. However, that is complicated and more difficult to administer than a single trust. With a higher estate tax exclusion, most couples now do not need an A/B trust. Would you understand that? Would you simply not be sure about it? By using an attorney - not just me, but any competent estate planning attorney - you can get what you need; nothing more and nothing less.
2. Follow up on titling of assets. This is a big problem for people who make their own trusts. The trust is not useful if you do not re-title your assets correctly. Those on-line providers do not prepare all the papers for you. They don't follow up. They don't know your personal circumstances and how those can effect how to handle these issues that come up after the estate plan is created. A real live attorney can help you with these and make sure your investment in the trust does not come to naught because you did not get the retitling done correctly. I have personally been involved in several cases where court actions were required to 'fix' estate problems caused by this lack of follow up on the part of the on-line companies. I would prefer that this not happen to you.
Attorney responsible for content of this site: David L. Howell. No attorney described here is certified by the Texas Board of Legal Certification in any specific area of practice. Copyright Law Offices of David L. Howell. All rights reserved.
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