Planning a vacation is fun and exciting, however, there is a lot of preparation before the experience. The lists of what to do and what to bring is important but not as important as remembering to ENJOY a vacation. It’s supposed to be fun and relaxing, or at a minimum, memorable. Also, you can probably get plenty of deep thinking done once you’ve stepped away from your daily routine.
One of the best ways to research someplace you haven’t been to before is to “Google” it. With the stroke of your fingers, you can get top suggestions of places to stay, activities not to miss and food that will be life-changing, all according to the reviews of others or the businesses themselves. However, how do you know the person that reviewed these places has the same taste in food or comfort level with “glamping” as you? It all sounds picturesque but how do you know about the details of the place? Who can you rely on to give you the best advice for planning the trip you have been dreaming of? You likely don’t have the time to contact all these places and get first-hand information. Today, anyone can be their own travel agent or Do-It-Yourself (DIY). This DIY option is often promoted as a more cost-effective option for the same experience.
DIY might work for planning a vacation, but for your family’s estate plan, the DIY option might seem convenient and cost-effective because it’s just filling out papers, right? Preparing for your estate plan is much more than just a few documents that need to be completed. The paperwork is the end of the process that results from preparation and planning. The DIY and online legal planning sites want you to believe that you can plan for it yourself. What if you need to speak to someone? How well do they know your family personally or have met with you in person to know your aspirations for the future when you are gone? Moreover, will you know if you “do it yourself” that it is correct and actually legal?
False Sense of Security
The DIY estate planning sites suggest this is as easy as 1-2-3, but the devil is in the details. The details of your future and how you are going to leave your family should not be left up to a website. It is imperative that you are aware of the intricate details of planning for your family’s future as it might cost them more money and time in the end all without you around to guide them. What is the purpose of planning ahead? Why invest money and time into your family’s future if it is not with someone you don’t know and trust?
Plans that Fail or Failing to Plan?
To ensure that your legacy is preserved and passed on the way that you foresee it, planning is the key. Planning for the future will help relieve the burden of your absence or if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate with your family or business. A quick and inexpensive online document service is anything but helpful. Many people assume that it is just about the paperwork, however, keep in mind that the documents are worth nothing if they are not properly planned for such as wills, trusts, health care directives, and powers of attorney. These documents take time and consideration of every possible avenue that might need to be crossed in the unexpected events of life as well as the desires for the future. Whom can you turn to if this is all done online? Will customer service stay on the phone with your partner to hold their hand when trying to figure out the future from some online document? We will review the 5 most common mistakes when using a DIY online service to plan for your future instead of using a reliable, trustworthy, human lawyer.
5 Ways Your Estate Plan Can Fail
- “Will” it be Enough?
One of the ironic things about estate planning is that the one legal document everyone thinks they need most is the one legal document that accomplishes the least. Yes, you know you need a Will, but a Will alone doesn’t do much. A Will can act as a guide to ensure your assets go where they are directed to go in the event of your death. It will not keep your family out of court. Furthermore, it will do the exact opposite because it forces your family to go to probate court to make the Will work.
We know that there are conditions between life and death. The Will only works after you die. What if you are incapacitated? The Will simply stays in its binder – unused and unable to help. And what happens if you have minor children? Where will they go? Will they be sent to a legal guardian or in a stranger’s home? If it’s a legal guardian, how will they be contacted? There will be more questions than answers which will leave your family confused, frustrated, and digging deeper into their pockets with a DIY service.
2. Execution of Your Plan
Have you ever read a message and prepared a reply but never hit “send” to respond? This could also be true for your Will. Having the document but not signing it is useless to protect your family. If your Will is not properly executed, it is more or less worthless. You can have all the documents from a DIY site lined up and in safe keeping but are they properly signed? Properly signed means to be signed and witnessed. Notarization may also be required. Did you read the fine print of the DIY document site? Most states require these documents to be properly executed or they are considered invalid.
If you have created an Estate Plan or Will with a DIY site, we are happy to look it over and help guide you. Actually, we want to get to know you and your family personally and professionally. What are your wishes for your family and business? Where do you see your family or business in the future? How will they manage when you are no longer around? Who will help to facilitate your desires for them?
How do you decide to choose the “right” executor or trustee for your estate? Surely, you would consider who is trustworthy, reliable, and will carry out your wishes the way that you would want them to, right? Well, the “right” executor, trustee, or even financial durable power of attorney needs to be a family member, and if not, they need to live in the same state as you, according to some state laws. If your executor does not meet those requirements, then they cannot serve as your executor (does it say that in the DIY fine print?)
Let’s say they do meet those requirements; some states require that the person appointed for your estate get a bond. A bond is similar to an insurance plan for your estate. However, if they don’t have a sufficient credit score, then it could be challenging for them to get the bond. If your executor can’t get a bond, then it would be up to the courts to appoint someone for you (who is not the ideal candidate) or a third-party “professional” who might just dry up your estate bank account with their fees and costs. Either of those scenarios are probably not what you envisioned when you appointed your chosen executor for your estate.
4. Lost and Unclaimed Assets
Does your family know the exact location of all your assets? Or did you tell Auntie So-and-So where your online documents are located and now here memory is not what it used to be? Where is that easy-to-write-yourself estate plan live physically? The DIY estate plan is of no use to your family because your assets could go with the other $50 Billion (yes, that is with a ‘B’) worth of unclaimed property into the state’s Department of Unclaimed Property. In order to ensure that your estate’s property does not get lost and end up in the pile of unclaimed property, you can schedule a meeting with a human lawyer to write up and store a copy of these important documents needed for when you are gone. This will help you to inventory and organize your assets as well as not add to the $50 billion.
5. Living in a Spider Web – Family Conflict
The family dynamic can be like living in a spiderweb of conflict. It can be sticky and hard to untangle especially with a blended family, where spouses have children from a previous relationship. I know about this firsthand because I have a blended family myself. Can a DIY site sit down and help you avoid potential conflicts in the future with your family? They can give you the paperwork to fill out yourself, but they can also tear your family apart when you are gone. It happens all the time and can easily be avoided with the appropriate planning for your future. In fact, we can help make your absence into a possible experience that allows your family to re-connect in a new way. Imagine a dedicated person and specific space that you have created with your family’s future in mind. We like to think of this as our “special spice” for all our clients which helps to enhance the flavor of life instead of feeling like it is missing. An experience that allows you to become the hero to your family. However, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Planning for the Future and Beyond
Now, that you have some knowledge about the pitfalls of online estate planning services, what do you have planned for your future? You want to make life for your loved ones as easy as possible. Take the time to plan for your own peace of mind as well as for your families. Regardless, if you are single, married, or in a committed relationship we can help you navigate the varying possibilities of what the future might hold for you and your family. Start creating your own legacy for your family. Think beyond just your children and grandchildren but what you might be able to offer your great-great grandchildren. We all have come from generations of traditions and values that were passed down and we want to preserve the way they have been preserved for us. Luckily, we have more and different opportunities to offer to our future families. Let us help you safeguard those family values and traditions in the way you want them to be cherished and cared for. Click the below link to schedule a free 15-minute call today. It’s time to start planning that long overdue vacation the way you want to!