The internet can be a wonderful place. Without it we would have no on-demand grocery delivery service, instant video chat with our friends and loved ones, or the option to find the purrfect cat bed for our furry companion. The internet has also brought us conveniences beyond simple consumerism, now empowering us to apply for mortgages, open self-directed brokerage accounts, and purchase cryptocurrency or NFTs with a few key strokes. Some of these latter opportunities come with inherent risks of substantial financial loss to the uneducated, or merely the unlucky.
This is also true of online estate planning software. There are a number of internet estate planning models available for download or subscription. They promise to be simple, easy to use, and inexpensive. It seems like a great innovation for the consumer, to be able to put one’s last wishes into an official legal document without leaving your living room.
The truth is, however, that creating an internet estate plan without the advice of an attorney is risky. And, unlike the risks posed by a self-directed investment account, the risk is not to subscriber, but to the subscriber’s family and loved ones. Estate planning documents are unique because many of them sit idly by until the death of the creator, at which point the fiduciaries involved must carry out the terms of the documents based on their contents. If the creator of these documents made a mistake, then the family can run into major problems.
There are many places where an estate plan can go wrong. The documents include technical provisions that relate directly to statutes, court decisions, and tax code provisions, which influence the rights of beneficiaries, taxes, and asset protection. There are also execution requirements, meaning that some documents must be signed in front of witnesses, others in front of a notary, and others in front of both. Failure to meet these requirements can cause the documents to be invalid. Even worse, conflicting provisions in an estate planning document could require the family to litigate the outcome, causing a huge financial burden and massive amounts of stress.
There are also practical considerations when drafting an estate plan, such as appointing the proper fiduciaries as trustee, personal representative, health care agent, attorney in fact, and long term or temporary guardian. These choices can be difficult to make, especially if you do not have a comprehensive understanding of the what these roles entail. Without the ability to discuss your preferences with an attorney to learn more about the implication of those choices, you are leaving the outcome of your internet estate plan up to chance.
It is critical to work with an attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan. While online subscription services promise the same result with less time and money, the ability to talk with a lawyer who is representing your best interests is invaluable. The attorneys at Mulhall Withrow have spent decades diving into complex scenarios to represent our clients’ interests to ensure that their families are not left putting the pieces back together because of a hasty internet estate plan.
If you created an estate plan on the web, or if you would like to learn more about setting up an initial conference, contact Mulhall Withrow, PLLC today to learn more. We are here to help you reach your goals and allow you to sleep at night knowing that your wishes will be carried out as you intended.