I Live in Texas: Should I Do My Estate Plan Online Or Use An Attorney?

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Throughout my journey as an estate planning attorney, I’ve witnessed a surge in online options for setting up estate plans. From free platforms to paid services, these online tools mostly focus on helping you create wills and other estate planning documents. While many of these platforms may be created by legal professionals, it’s not always clear who’s behind them.

Interestingly, the online services don’t consult me for document reviews. It’s as if we exist in separate realms – they don’t work for me, and I don’t work for them. Consequently, these platforms rarely seek my input, making it challenging for me to vouch for the accuracy and suitability of the documents they generate. When people ask me to review documents obtained from online services, I usually explain that I’m not in the business of critiquing online products. Reviewing online documents without knowing their content source would require verifying everything, unlike my approach of crafting documents based on my knowledge of Texas law.

Online self-help legal services serve a purpose, typically meeting the basic needs of individuals. However, they might fall short in addressing more complex situations. Collaborating with an estate planning attorney ensures a tailored, personalized plan that caters to your specific needs. Let’s face it – everyone is unique, and so should be their estate plan.

Who Does an Online Estate Plan Help?

A baby plays on a laptop computerFor straightforward situations, online self-help estate plans can be quite beneficial. If you have one spouse and children from that marriage, a will leaving everything to your spouse and then to your children upon both your deaths might be sufficient. Many online services can handle this kind of plan, and some may even allow you to specify gifts to particular individuals.

Certain online platforms offer additional essential documents for a complete estate plan: a financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, and a living will/advanced directive. Although the inclusion of these documents varies across online services, having all four – will, financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and living will/advanced directive – is crucial. Online services, however, may have limitations in the clarity of their questions. Misunderstandings can occur, and the absence of interactive clarification may lead to errors in the estate plan.

Who Benefits from Using an Estate Planning Attorney to Create an Estate Plan?

To put it simply: everyone benefits. I strive for properly crafted estate plans without misunderstandings or mistakes. When we meet, my goal is to understand your situation, present suitable options, and let you make informed decisions. While I can’t delve into every detail due to time constraints, I make sure you comprehend the essentials before finalizing the estate plan. This might involve explaining legal jargon in plain English or ensuring the inclusion of necessary elements without going through every word with you.

Reviewing documents from online services poses challenges as it requires scrutinizing every word for compliance with Texas law. Without context about your family or life situation, it’s nearly impossible for me to determine adequacy. I prefer not to review or approve someone else’s work unless I have the full picture, ensuring the document aligns with your individual circumstances.

What About the Legal Services Provided as an Employee Benefit?

Some companies offer legal services packages as employee benefits, resembling insurance plans. Examples include MetLife/MetLaw, Hyatt Legal, and Legal Shield. These plans may cover attorney-based services or lean toward self-help for estate planning. If your company provides such a service, it’s crucial to understand what’s covered, who’s covered, and the type of service offered.

What is the Big Benefit of Using an Estate Planning Attorney for Your Estate Plan?

Engaging an estate planning attorney provides access to knowledge and experience, addressing your specific needs. Different life situations require varied planning, such as minor children, multiple marriages, adult children, or declining health. An attorney can guide you through these unique scenarios, ensuring your estate plan evolves with your changing circumstances.

Pick the Best Option for You, and Just Get Your Estate Plan Done!

If an online self-help legal service aligns with your needs, go ahead and complete your estate plan that way. However, if your life is a bit more complex – and let’s be honest, most lives are – consulting an experienced estate planning attorney is likely worthwhile. Your complexity as an individual doesn’t necessarily mean intricate planning needs. I often find that clients, despite their complex lives, only require basic planning. My basic estate plans cover the foundational documents – a will, financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and a living will/advanced directive. If you’re unsure about your needs, schedule a discussion to explore your situation and determine whether basic planning or something more is suitable for you. You can do so by clicking here.

The post I Live in Texas: Should I Do My Estate Plan Online Or Use An Attorney? appeared first on Paul Hardy Law, LLC.

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