By Myka Landry
When I meet with prospective clients, they often ask about the cost of doing an estate plan. Some question why an attorney is needed when there are so many do-it-yourself programs.
As an estate planning attorney, I let my clients decide. But I also explain to them that their situation could turn disastrous if they do not have a properly prepared estate plan.
Yes, there are basic documents that should be included in every estate plan. But in more complicated situations, you may need documents that go beyond the basics.
Furthermore, a good estate plan is not one size fits all, nor is it just a process of filling in blanks on forms. Many factors go into formulating an estate plan.
So, to answer the question about cost, I have to say it varies with every individual and situation. For example, do you have a blended family? Do you or any of your beneficiaries have a disability or other health concerns? What do you want to happen to your property if a beneficiary predeceases you? Are any of your possible beneficiaries minors?
In these and other situations, you need a qualified estate planning attorney to make sure all of your wishes are properly outlined and understood.
Do-it-yourself programs like LegalZoom and Quicken Willmaker often tempt people to do it themselves to save some money. I don’t recommend that. These programs cannot help you to determine how the plan will work in your specific situation. Plus, laws vary significantly from state to state. In short, you will not know if your plan will work unless you know your state law and how it applies to your situation.
There is a reason that DIY programs contain disclaimers, such as: “The information contained in this program is not legal advice and is not a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice, consult an attorney.”
The purpose of doing an estate plan is to make sure your affairs are handled the way you want them to be. If your estate plan does not work, it leaves your loved ones with a bigger mess than if there were no estate plan at all. Don’t risk leaving your loved ones with a mess to save a few dollars now.
Many estate planning attorneys offer free consultations. I recommend that you at least schedule a consultation with an attorney to evaluate your options and discuss pricing.