If the cost for estate planning IS your top priority you can check out the “good” online legal programs like LegalZoom®, or Pre-Paid Legal® The problem with shopping estate planning by costs is that you are not getting the value of plan that will thoroughly cover your needs and consider all aspects of your life. You also run the risk of leaving a plan that does not protect your family’s true interests when you are gone.
Here are two reasons why cheap online estate planning solutions are a bad idea
The first reason is because these cheap, online options are NOT as “easy to use” as claimed. The second is that they can actually cost you an arm and a leg because, more than likely you (or your loved ones) will need to hire a real lawyer to clean up the mess later!
You might think these online options seem like an inexpensive and safe option but trust me they will cost your family far more in the long run. And I’m not referring to the money for the service itself – that may be cheap. But, consider this …
Using those programs can end up leaving thousands (or much more) of YOUR assets in the coffers of Uncle Sam or the County Court system…even if you follow all of their instructions to a tee. I see it ALL THE TIME—frustrated clients bringing in online-generated plans, astonished at all the “hidden savings” my staff and I can find for them.
Not to mention all the errors we find by people who think they did everything exactly right, but still got stuck in unfortunate traps for the unwary that you just wouldn’t know about.
The security you get with these plans is actually false security.
Even worse, frustrated families come to see me during a period of great stress. Then we are having to attempt to “undo” poorly crafted plans created by well-intentioned families (or even other lawyers) which ends up costing everybody far more than they’d like. (And I’m not just talking about money, either. The time wasted and the emotional toll is where the real cost often shows up.)
The Value of a Professional Personal Family Lawyer
Choosing a well-trained and caring professional, who will put YOUR interests first is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Rather than settling for the false security of legal documents drafted online or with a cheapest alternative of three quotes you got in your shopping zeal you owe it to yourself to choose wisely a professional who will work with you in the best interest of your loved ones.
With all that, now we come to the issues you’ll deal with in choosing the right estate planning lawyer for your needs. Watch out for these top four mistakes that you want to avoid.
MISTAKE #1—Choosing a lawyer who will charge you hourly for your planning or lure you in with a “$399 offer”
The cost for estate planning should almost never be based on an hourly fee. Any lawyer who knows his or her stuff is able to quote you a package fee for a comprehensive service. Ask for a quote for comprehensive survey and be sure to note what is included. Then you can compare apples to apples.
MISTAKE #2- Only addressing “obvious” assets, and not having a lawyer work with you to pass on your intangible whole family wealth.
Too often, the most valuable family assets are lost at death because the intangible assets are left out of the plan completely. I’m talking about your legacy. While working with you we also focus on how you can plan to pass on your intangible legacy to the next generation as part of the planning we do with your family at no extra charge.
MISTAKE #3– Expecting Poor Service and Receiving It.
Our culture tends to promote the idea that lawyers will charge for even a phone call and if you ask for service, you can expect to wait for it. Expect more than that! Ask your prospective lawyer whether he or she has a culture of service and what that looks like in his or her office. If s/he looks at you like you are crazy, leave, fast.
MISTAKE #4- Choosing a lawyer who is not an expert in the kind of service you actually need.
If your best friend’s spouse is an attorney, don’t assume you can get a “good deal” if they are not specifically an estate planning attorney. The same goes for any attorney you find that does not specialize in estate planning. If they don’t but are soliciting your business, beware, you may be paying your lawyer to learn how to do things OR you are going to end up with big expenses down the road when things change in your life, the law or your assets.
Remember the Real Cost for Estate Planning
There are far more important things than money, but I understand the need to weigh the expense of major investments. While the upfront cost for estate planning is something to consider, it should not be the top priority. The short-term savings by preparing your estate plan with an online service with by the attorney who will deliver a plan at the cheapest price will, no doubt, cost you more in terms of later stress, pain of probate, or for the billable hours required to fix mistakes. Before you reach for the cheapest alternative talk with at least one professional estate planning attorney, we hope you will think of us.
You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.
This article is a service of Natalya Evans, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. If your children are younger, you might consider including our Kids Protection Plan.