Hi, my name is Jordan Flake and I’m an estate planning attorney with Clear Counsel Law Group and one of the questions that we get from a lot of our clients is there are these companies out there that have form driven estate planning practices that will help you get a valid trust or will or power of attorney documents, but the real question is whether or not they’re effective.
I don’t want to mention these companies, but what they do is they basically provide you with the forms that will allow you to put in your name into the different spots in the form and what you will have at the end of the day is a valid legal document that essentially is customized to your situation or at least presumptively is customized to your situation.
I can’t mention the names of the companies that provide these form estate plans, but I often get the question, “Jordan, are these form estate plans really good? Are they okay? What about them? What do we do?”
I mean they’re oftentimes less expensive than seeing an attorney, so maybe they’re great, right? I get this question and sometimes my way jokingly responding that they are really good because if you’re lost in the wilderness and you need to start a fire, then you can use these form estate plans as kindling to start a really great fire. In that sense, they can be really effective and very useful.
Obviously I joke they can be good if you have a super straightforward, simple situation and you’re willing to see them for what they are which is just a very much fill in the blank estate planning solution.
Joking Aside, I Know How Important Your Estate Plan is to You
Now my concern about them is that they are not really customized to what you may want or need. It comes down to the difference of something being valid and legally enforceable which I concede and acknowledged that they can be on the one hand valid, but on the other hand, are they really truly effective, do they really accomplish what you want them to accomplish.
Let me talk a little bit about that.
Our law firm Clear Counsel Law Group, we do estate planning and that’s the side that I really enjoy.
I get to meet with people. We sit down. We give you options. We execute an estate plan.
You get the peace of mind of knowing that your documents are done correctly. That’s the part that I like. The part that I still do and I enjoy it as well, but not just quite as much is if people pass away and they don’t have their estate planning done or maybe they have some estate planning but maybe they did it themselves.
We have to deal with the disputes and the fallout that comes from those situations where they weren’t really relying on attorney drafted documents.
So You Say You Have Form Estate Plans..
I can just tell you that as a practitioner in this area for almost a decade, when we get a phone call from somebody and they say, “Hey, yeah my dad their own estate plan. He did his own estate plan. He drafted his own estate plan. He thought he knew what he was doing,” automatically in my mind I have this automatic response from years of experience that says,
“Oh no, what did he miss? What T wasn’t crossed? What I wasn’t dotted that has the potential to cause a lot of problems downstream?
How are we going to cover this gap? Who did he forget to disinherit?” He intended to disinherit one of his children, but he didn’t properly say that or do that properly. There’s all these things that arise in my mind where I think, “Oh no, they did their own estate planning.”
When I hear that a document was drafted by an attorney who actually sat down and met with the client, 9 times out of 10, that document is going to be just fine. The case might have other issues that are causing problems, but the document itself is going to be sound.
That’s the difference in my mind being on both of the fence, the non-disputed estate planning side, I want to give you a customized document. Over here on the disputed side, if we see a customized document, we don’t think there are going to be as many problems with the document as if there’s a document that was a drafted by perhaps the individual.
That’s the difference there between what’s merely valid on the one hand and what’s truly effective on the other.
If you come in for a consultation, we’ll review your existing estate plan documents if you have them. If not, we’ll sit down and we’ll figure it out how do we actually make the law work for you in your specific situation, not just to make it valid but to actually make it effective and easy on your loved ones and to make sure everything is really optimized to go specifically with what you want.
A Final Consideration Before You Make a Mistake with Form Estate Plans
Let me just put one thing in perspective here. You are talking about how you’re going to pass all of your earthly wealth onto your most beloved individuals in your life. It is not something that you want to take on on your own.
It may cost more to have an attorney do it than to have you try to figure it out on your own, but I would suggest that that is a big enough and important enough project that it’s worth actually meeting with an attorney.
The other thing is it might not be as expensive as you think. We are all about options at Clear Counsel Law Group. We’re about options and transparency.
We’re about coming up with solutions that work for all of our clientele, whether you have a lot of money and assets that you’re passing or whether you don’t have very much at all.
Come meet with us so that we can give you options and we can find the best possible solution for you.
Again, I’m Jordan Flake. We’ll do a free consultation.
Just give us a call.