I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio and based on the constant advertising by a major online document preparer, a lot of folks go this route in preparing their living trusts.
Is it because lawyers charge huge fees and these online wizzes are cheaper and more efficient at preparing simple trusts?
Is it because the online wizzes are better and more efficient at drafting higher-level trusts?
No, that can’t be the case. Lawyer fees appear to be competitive, while the “fine print” on a major online preparer’s site says documents are prepared “at your specific direction” – oh really? Even most lawyers cannot draft trusts properly unless they specialize in the area. Some lawyers do draft trusts without really knowing what it is they do not know, but at least you have a malpractice policy to go after and bar oversight.
Is it because the online wizzes offer things like a “free will”?
No, that can’t be the case. You cannot pick and choose among documents in an integrated estate plan, at least with basic planning. A professional should recommend the proper documents and charge a package price. Otherwise, a family trying to save money may forego a vital component of planning. For example, here is “fine print” you may find on the site of a lawyer practicing in this area:
Each of the following plans includes all planning conferences and one or more living trusts, pour-over wills, durable powers of attorney, advance health care directives, medical information authorizations, living wills, trust funding instructions, certificates of trust, trust summaries, property agreements, and a record-keeping system.
It’s really not about the documents, it’s about the planning and keeping the plan updated so it always can be relied on. Anything else is just over-priced word processing from a red light district where the term “professional” fails to connote the sort of commitment you need to protect your family.