Estate Planning: Lawyers vs. The Internet

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People sometimes ask – do those online or computer software estate planning programs work? My response is to ask them what they are looking to accomplish.

If they are just looking for a “product” with very little understanding of what they are purchasing (or guidance in relation to) – then utilize a program. However, if they are looking to establish a life long relationship with a trusted advisor who can provide ongoing advice and guidance about their particular situation, in addition to preparing the estate planning basics and appropriate documents, then utilize an attorney.

To help illustrate what I am saying, here are number of “services” that you get when you establish a relationship with an estate planning attorney that you do not get from a buying a program:

  • Listen to your goals and desires and incorporate them into your plan
  • Offer advice, not just words on paper
  • Provide referrals to other trusted, competent professionals
  • Ensure that the documents are properly executed
  • Make sure that any trusts are properly funded
  • Confirm that your beneficiary designations are properly completed
  • Ensure that your accounts and real estate are properly titled
  • Help with managing assets of incapacitated family members.
  • Assist with probate and trust administration upon someone’s death
  • Provide guidance when someone becomes incapacitated
  • Help with income, gift and estate tax matters
  • Assist with obtaining governmental benefits for disabled or incapacitated family members (i.e. – VA or Medicaid benefits)
  • Serve as an advocate in dealing with financial institution and governmental entities
  • You receive (or at least should) regular updates on changes in the law that may effect your situation (i.e. – like this e-newsletter)
  • Care about what happens to you and your family!
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