Many people these days believe that estate planning is something that anyone can do. Who needs expensive lawyers when you have Google? You go online, answer a few questions, then download the documents that are right for your situation. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s inexpensive. But is do-it-yourself estate planning really a better deal than working with a qualified attorney to create those documents?
You might get lucky and download the right documents for your situation. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. It’s the same with estate planning documents.
I've had people come into my law office with Suze Orman trusts they got online. These documents are governed by California law. Trust me when I say that there is nothing further from Tennessee law than California law. Why would a person who lives in Tennessee want a legal document that requires a California lawyer to interpret? It’s because people don’t read these documents in detail. They have no idea what’s in them.
When people go online for estate planning documents thinking that they are avoiding the expense of a lawyer, they are only thinking about the cost to prepare legal documents. That’s not the only cost to consider. There’s also the cost to fix problems that bad estate planning documents create.
I’m currently working on a case where a family is fighting over the interpretation of a do-it-yourself Will that cost around $25 to create. They paid me a $20,000 retainer to get started on this case, and they’ll pay many thousands more before this case is settled, all because somebody didn’t think it was worth it to pay a lawyer to create those documents. So they’re paying a lawyer many times more to litigate.
If do-it-yourself documents are a bad deal, would spending a little money to have a lawyer review them make things better? It depends. I’m not suggesting that you take your legal documents to a just any general practice lawyer for review. Your best bet is to have them reviewed by a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). These attorneys know what to look for and they know how to create documents that will stand up to scrutiny.
One thing that a downloadable document can never do is know what your interests are and how to protect them. This is true in every area of law, not just estate planning. As an example, I have a friend (also an attorney) who is renting some commercial space in Nashville. The landlord sent my friend a lease that a real estate agent had given him. She sat down to review the lease, fully intending to mark it up with her changes. As she started reading the lease, she realized that this was a tenant friendly lease—not the kind of lease you would expect to get from a landlord. Why did my friend get a tenant-friendly lease? It’s most likely because the landlord didn’t take the time to go to a lawyer and get a lease that protected his interests. Instead, he took a shortcut and got one from the realtor.
Don’t be one of those people who finds out too late that do-it-yourself estate planning isn’t the better deal. Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law can help you be certain that your estate planning documents protect your interests. We are here for you! Call 615.824.2571 to schedule your confidential consultation.