Estate Planning Attorney vs. Online Templates

Sept. 15, 2021

A couple nervously holds hands in front of a laptopA survey by found that, since the onset of the pandemic, young adults with a basic will in place surged by 63 percent. For the first time since the survey began, 18-to-34-year-olds in 2021 were more likely to have a will than were 35-to-54-year-olds.

Many of these new will-writers may have gone online, found a do-it-yourself (DIY) will, and filled in the blanks. Some may even have drafted their own documents following instructions from a website. Were they properly constructed to meet all of their states’ legal requirements? Properly witnessed and/or notarized, if required?

The lure of creating a last will and testament from an online source boils down to cost and convenience. Many people feel consulting an estate planning attorney will be too costly, intrusive, and time-consuming, so they opt for the DIY route.

Creating an estate plan without consulting a professional is like reinstalling the circuit board panel in your house without relying on an electrician to make sure everything goes safely. You might be able to do it, but you can get seriously hurt in the process, or the house could burn down after you finish.

If you’re in Rocklin, California, or nearby in Roseville, Folsom, or Citrus Heights, contact the Law Office of Geoffrey Fong for all your estate planning needs. You may think a will is all you need to ensure your loved ones are taken care of, but there are other estate planning documents that can supplement the will, cover all the legal and practical bases, and give everyone peace of mind.

The Importance of Estate Planning

The pandemic may have raised everyone’s awareness that life is not guaranteed. Even with this new awareness, fewer than half of all Americans even have a will. And a will is just the starting point. If done correctly, it can make sure your loved ones receive your assets as you desire, but it can’t foresee or account for unexpected occurrences.

What if you suddenly become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself? Who is going to manage your affairs? For that, you need a power of attorney (POA) awarding the legal rights to someone else to act on your behalf.

What if, in addition to being incapacitated, you end up in a life-or-death hospital situation? Who is going to decide on your medical treatment options? For that, you need an advance healthcare directive that states your preferences and empowers someone to convey your choices to the attending physician.

A thorough estate plan takes into consideration all contingencies for both you and your loved ones. For that, you need the advice and consultation of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Online Forms vs.
Estate Planning Attorney

The forms for wills, trusts, and powers of attorney found online are usually generic; that is, they’re not necessarily tailored for the state in which you live and the legal requirements set by that state for estate planning instruments. If the document you download doesn’t adhere to your state’s requirements, it could be rendered invalid once you’re gone and it is needed.

Another problem with DIY will or trust writing concerns modifications. What if your family situation changes – you remarry, or a child suddenly develops special needs? How do you adapt what you have? And if you do have a child who develops special needs for education and caring, what documents can meet those goals? An attorney can help you set up a tailored special needs trust, for which an online source would be poorly suited.

If you just have a will, it will have to go through probate court. (A living trust can avoid probate court proceedings.) If the will has not been witnessed properly, or the wording does not clearly convey your intentions using proper legal terminology, disputes can erupt.

Family members, would-be beneficiaries, creditors, and others can stall the probate process with claims and counter-claims, run up the costs astronomically, and sometimes end up getting the will rejected entirely by the court.

Also, if you write your own will and then throw it in your dresser or safe deposit box, who is going to have access to it when the time comes? Will a handwritten will or poorly executed online document survive the scrutiny of a probate court?

An estate planning attorney can not only retain copies of your estate planning documents but also testify to their veracity and to your stated intentions should court challenges arise.

Get the Experienced
Legal Help You Need

Having a will is certainly better than dying intestate – without a will. If you die intestate, the probate court will decide on who gets what. If you have a poorly executed DIY will, the court may also reject it on various grounds, and then it is just like dying intestate. The court decides everything.

To develop a comprehensive estate plan that covers everyone’s needs and every possible eventuality, you really need to sit down with a knowledgeable attorney and discuss your personal situation.

Your attorney will advise you of the estate planning instruments you need and then execute them with the precise language needed to survive any legal challenges. As your life changes, you can have your attorney update your estate plan. A periodic review with your attorney is also strongly advised.

Contact the Law Office of Geoffrey Fong for all your estate planning needs. He has helped countless others like you across Rocklin, Roseville, Folsom, and Citrus Heights, California, create peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones by putting the proper legal documents in place.