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!