The decisions you choose to make and those you ignore or overlook for your estate plan will have long-lasting and permanent ramifications.
Don’t let the significance of estate planning prevent you from getting started. Would you fail to jump to action if you saw a friend choking because of the long-lasting ramifications of helping him? Of course not! You’d immediately do whatever you could to help. When it comes to your estate plan, just jump in and get started. The details will work themselves out with time and with the help of an experienced estate attorney.
There are many sources—software packages, trust “factories,” insurance brokers—that offer “estate planning.” This section will discuss the disadvantages to using these sources over an experienced estate attorney.
1) Computer software.
There are numerous software programs that advertise they can help you create a Will, Living Trusts, POAs, and other estate planning documents “from the privacy of your own home.” They claim that—for $29.95 or less—you can download a program and within a few minutes have an entire estate plan. Unless you have very few assets and no children, I would not recommend using a software program to create your Will and would never recommend their use to create POAs or Living Trusts.
Your estate plan is too important to leave to a piece of software. According to the manufacturer of one such program, “This software is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Negotiating or drafting legal documents yourself could save you money on attorney fees, but may also expose you to risks. The facts of your personal situation, along with your state’s specific laws and changes in the law that may have occurred after the production of this software make it advisable to consult an attorney before finalizing any legal documents.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
2) Trust “factories.”
Trust factories are pretty easy to spot. You’ll often see them advertise free estate planning seminars on late-night television or in local newspapers. They talk up the benefits of Living Trusts and explain how you can save thousands of dollars. These seminars are nothing more than sales pitches for their Living Trusts. For a couple hundred dollars, they claim to create a “customized” estate plan for you. Unfortunately, their estate plans are cookie-cutter documents with nothing but general boilerplate language. It can be very tempting to consider an inexpensive service like this but remember, the goal is not to save as much money as possible in creating the plan. It is to have a solid estate plan that meets your needs when the time comes. If you’re incapacitated in the hospital, would you rather have a boilerplate POA that is written in generalities or one that was crafted specifically for your needs and the laws in your state?
3) Insurance brokers.
Insurance brokers sell an extremely valuable product. There is nothing inherently wrong with them or the products they provide but, just as you wouldn’t ask a Chevy salesperson for advice on a Ford, you shouldn’t go to an insurance broker for estate planning. To try to avoid the “life insurance salesman” stigma, many insurance brokers are calling themselves “estate planners” or telling people that they provide “estate planning strategies.” Regardless of their new title, insurance brokers view the world through life insurance-tinted glasses. If they sell life insurance, feel free to go to them to buy life insurance but do not use them to plan your estate.
If you are serious about providing for your loved ones, only work with an experienced attorney who specializes in estate planning.
Would you go to a general practitioner for heart surgery? Of course not! You’d choose the best heart surgeon you could find and afford. You’d want someone that eats, breathes, and lives heart surgery, not someone who performs heart surgeries, mends broken bones, and removes tonsils. This is obvious when it comes to healthcare, but it isn’t as obvious when it comes to law.
There are a lot of general practitioner attorneys who will draft an estate plan just as quick as they will help you fight a traffic ticket or sue your neighbor. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor by hiring an attorney who specializes in estate planning (sometimes called a “trusts and estates attorney”) to help you with your estate documents.
The proceeding blog post is an excerpt from The Six-Day Financial Makeover: Transform Your Financial Life in Less Than a Week!, available now on Amazon.
About the Independent Financial Advisor
Robert Pagliarini, PhD, CFP®, EA has helped clients across the United States manage, grow, and preserve their wealth for the past 25 years. His goal is to provide comprehensive financial, investment, and tax advice in a way that was honest and ethical. In addition, he is a CFP® Board Ambassador, one of only 50 in the country, and a real fiduciary. In his spare time, he writes personal finance books, finance articles for Forbes and develops email and video financial courses to help educate others. With decades of experience as a financial advisor, the media often calls on him for his expertise. Contact Robert today to learn more about his financial planning services.