In most cases, from the most sophisticated business people with the highest net worth to those just starting in the workforce and on their path to adulthood, you very likely do not know how to evaluate estimates when shopping for an estate plan.
Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is often the fastest path to leaving your family with an empty set of documents (maybe in a beautiful binder, but not worth the paper they are written on) that won’t work for your family when they need it.
Unfortunately, we see the negative effects of cheap estate planning when family members come to us during a time of grief with that fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security, full of out-of-date estate planning documents, and find themselves stuck in what could have been an avoidable court process, or even conflict when that’s exactly what their loved one thought they had paid someone to handle for them.
Here Are 5 Reasons Why Shopping For The Cheapest Estate Plan Is Likely To Leave You With A Plan That Won’t Work For Your Family… And Could Leave Them With A Big Mess Instead.
01 | The least expensive plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on once you’ve left the attorney’s office — your life changes, the law changes, and your assets change over time; your plan needs to keep up with those changes.
And the truth is a lawyer can’t afford to provide anything more than documents that won’t get updated when you only pay a few hundred dollars for a plan. The business model doesn’t work for the lawyer and won’t work for you.
An attorney who has built a practice specifically to serve your family in their best interests cannot make a living selling $399 (or even $1,500 or $2,000) Wills, Trusts, or estate plans. Only insurance and financial professionals getting paid commissions to sell your family’s annuities and life insurance products can make a living selling cheap documents. Buyer beware!
02 | “Estate planning” is often sold by financial professionals who want to get their hands on your “assets under management,” not necessarily prioritizing doing right by your family or keeping the people you love out of court or conflict. They may not even know how to keep your family out of court or conflict.
When your estate plan has been sold to you by an investment advisor as part of your financial advisory and retirement support services, their focus isn’t on understanding the relational and legal dynamics of families, which can flare up after the death of a loved one. As “relational lawyers,” we’ve got specific expertise and training in pre-emptively identifying potential for family conflict and heading it off before it becomes an expensive problem. We’ve seen it all when it comes to families getting stuck in court, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you design a plan that prevents your family from court and conflict.
03 | Forms and documents won’t be there for your family when you can’t be — you want to leave your loved one’s relationship with a trusted advisor with whom you have built a relationship during your lifetime and who has met them and they already Trust.
Working with a lawyer who focuses on “the best documents” at the “lowest price” or doesn’t charge enough for their services cannot provide more than form documents. These days, especially with the rise of AI, template form documents are free- for anyone to use, which makes it difficult to know how those documents are handled when it comes to protecting the people you love.
Shopping around for the least expensive plan may get you the cheapest documents, but those documents won’t be there to guide the people you love when they need someone to turn to in a crisis or grief. We will be.
04 | You get what you pay for. It’s your family that will pay the price. Traditional law firms usually use generic forms and documents. These are called “Trust mills” and are a firm that drafts plans but doesn’t ensure assets are owned correctly or stay up to date over time. You might think that’s malpractice, but it’s not. It’s common practice, leaving your family at risk if and when something happens to you!
05 | An estate plan isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing, it needs to stay updated with changes in your life, the law, and your assets.
There’s currently more than $58 billion in unclaimed property held in departments of unclaimed property across the United States. Yep, that is billion with a B. Assets often land there when someone dies or becomes incapacitated, and their family loses track of it because it wasn’t tracked well during life. And that’s just one way your family loses out if you’ve shopped around for the cheapest estate plan rather than having a plan that works for the people you love.
Is Something Better Than Nothing?
Sometimes, having something in place is better than nothing, but this is not one of those cases. In this case, having a “something” plan leaves your family holding the expensive, or even empty bag, when it’s too late for them and you to do anything about it. It’s risky business to leave your loved one’s with a set of documents you aren’t sure are going to work, and our guess is that you love your people too much for that.
Bottom line: don’t waste your time shopping around town for the cheapest plan possible. You don’t want the cheap plan, you want the plan that will work for the people you love when they need it.
If you already have an estate plan in place that you may have bought based on price, and are concerned you may have gotten a set of documents that won’t serve your family when they need it most, call us and ask about our 50-point assessment. We can help you save some money by giving it to do yourself, or you can pay us for a plan review to make sure your loved one’s won’t get stuck with an expensive and painful and unnecessary court process or loss of assets, when it’s too late.
This article is a service of Liz Smith, in Juneau, Alaska. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life and Legacy Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at 907-312-5436 to schedule a Life and Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge; or book a time for our team to call you at a time you choose.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer firms®, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.