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Considering the accessibility and inundation of online services recently, many people have turned to the internet to prepare their estate planning documents. The cost and ease of using the service however does not mean a better value or a better plan. Usually, using this type of service will give you a false sense of security because your loved ones will only realize the failure of your planning after you have passed away.

Do your documents comply with local law?

Each State has it’s own set of laws regarding the process of executing legal documents and what is actually required within the document to make it valid. Generally the online service creating your estate planning documents does not take each individual jurisdiction’s requirements into consideration and a failure to properly execute the documents will result in their invalidity for administration purposes. This could mean that the money spent to procure these documents is wasted and instead the State laws where you live will determine who inherits under the intestacy (passing away without a Will) laws.

Does your planning minimize your taxes and expenses?

In addition to execution considerations, each State has specific laws regarding taxes including inheritance taxes and estate taxes and a failure to take these specific laws into consideration could cost your loved ones more in taxes than what you saved by preparing your own plan. Again, this type of misstep would only be discovered after you have passed away when it would be to late to change the documents and provide any kind of tax relief.

Do your documents accurately reflect your specific family circumstances?

Finally, the online process is “cookie cutter” and does not take into consideration your specific goals and needs with regard to your family. Meeting with an estate planning attorney will help to create a set of documents that are specific and tailored exactly to your needs and family situation. For example, do you have a child who is in the process of a divorce or bankruptcy or who is currently receiving state and/or federal benefits? Leaving money to that child without any further planning could result in that child’s inheritance ending up in the hands of an ex-spouse or creditor or could disqualify him from the state and/or federal benefits he is receiving. Without a consultation with an estate planning attorney, there is a much greater chance that your wishes for the inheritance left to your loved ones will not be carried out. There is no way an online service could contemplate your individual concerns and provide you with the necessary vehicles to protect your assets after you pass away.

Are there steps necessary beyond creating your documents?

Another issue to consider is what happens with your documents after you have signed them. Often, the creation of a revocable trust is just the beginning of the estate planning process, a trust must be “funded” by re-titling assets in the name of the trust in order to provide any benefit. An online service cannot properly advise you as to funding matters since it is necessary to know exactly where your assets are and how they are titled to complete this process.

There is a varying level of uncertainty that your planning will save time and money for your loved ones after you pass away when you use an online service. An estate planning attorney can assist with documents that are customized to your family’s specific situation while saving taxes and the expense and time associated with the probate process.