Five Reasons to Avoid “Cookie Cutter” Estate Plans
Estate planning is one of the most important tasks a person can undertake. After all, if you have spent years and decades building a life and acquiring property and assets, you want to make sure these assets carry on properly to your family and heirs. Most people are hesitant to approach estate planning, though, for two main reasons — it involves talking about death, a difficult and emotional concept, and it involves a lot of work. Quite simply, there can be a lot of paperwork and detailed discussions involved when it comes to mapping out property, assets, retirement accounts, and the like, then devising the most efficient ways to pass these on to your family.
For many people, it is tempting to turn to companies that offer cheap, fixed-rate services for legal document preparation. Typically, these “Do it Yourself” legal service providers use technology that can provide documents for people with minimal time, effort, and face-to-face interaction. Alternative legal services have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, in part due to their perceived ease of use and cheap rates.
While these services do offer some benefits in terms of savings and convenience, there are some issues people must consider before using form-generation companies for estate planning:
- Estate planning needs can change over time. What works now for a do-it-yourself, online will or estate planning document might not work five years from now. Plans change, beneficiaries can change, and certain accounts or trusts may need to be changed as well. If you did all of the work yourself initially, you would need to do that work all over again when things change. If you used an estate planning attorney, they would only need to make some relatively quick updates to what they have on file for you.
- Different trusts for different situations. If you are completing an estate plan online with the help of a live chat agent, they might be able to help you complete certain parts of a form. But they are not licensed to provide legal advice, and probably cannot tell you which type of trust would be preferable for certain scenarios for your family. An irrevocable trust may be valuable for protection from creditors, for example, but that trust's inflexibility may not make it ideal for you. Often, an experienced estate planning attorney may be able to tell you when a special needs trust may be warranted, but an online DIY format cannot pinpoint those situations for you.
- Planning for long term care or nursing home care. Long term care involves assistance with daily living activities that can take place at home, at a community living center, or at a long term care facility such as a nursing home. 70% of those turning 65 or older will need long term care at some point, and the sooner that someone prepares for this likelihood, the better. Long term health care is notoriously expensive, and the costs are typically covered through any combination of personal savings, Medicaid, long term care insurance, or other assets. Without proper planning, an admission to a long term care facility can quickly drain a person's resources and upend their plans to preserve and distribute assets to their heirs. Online services are unlikely to address the vast scope of contingencies a person and their family must consider in this regard.
- Tax considerations. With proper tax strategies, a person can avoid certain tax payments and penalties that can unnecessarily reduce what your family members stand to inherit. Tax planning strategies may also differ in Northern Kentucky than they would in New York or California, for example, and it helps to have the advice of a local legal professional that knows the best tax steps you can take in Kentucky.
- Living wills, powers of attorney, and other vital legal instruments. When thinking about estate planning, people usually think about a will, and what to do with their home, investment accounts, and other assets. At the same time, one must consider options regarding their health and issues that arise during medical emergencies or end-of-life scenarios. Creating a living will or power of attorney can be important steps that are separate from financial considerations you might have addressed at a different time. When thinking about these options, it is always preferable to do this with someone who has helped others with the same decisions before.
Our Northern Kentucky Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help Where “Do it Yourself” Strategies Fall Short
There are numerous services offering legal services that promise to be cheap and effective. Often, what makes them inexpensive is their automated computer software and lack of personnel to give you the customized expert advice you may need. When it comes to something as important as estate planning, you do not want to rely on a “cookie cutter” strategy. You will be better served by face-to-face attention from a skilled legal professional that will identify the best strategies available to you. Our elder law and estate planning attorneys at Darpel Elder Law are thoroughly familiar with all issues in this area, and will be happy to help you. Contact Darpel Elder Law today to discuss your full range of options with an experienced attorney. Call our office at (859) 341-4100, or visit our website at www.darpelelderlaw.com.