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 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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