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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Monday, January 25, 2021

When and Why to Say No to California Estate Planning Web Documents

A DIY movement has swept the nation, with internet tutorials and documents available for almost any need. But when it comes to matters as important as financial and legal affairs, is adopting

a standardized web-based approach the best idea? The convenience and minimal upfront investment of do-it-yourself wills and estate plans are attractive lures. However, using standardized documents to establish a personalized and comprehensive estate plan could be challenging, and may lead to costly problems in the future.

California estate planning attorneys advise when and why to say no to California estate planning web documents.

3 Reasons to Say No to Web-based Estate Planning

No two individuals are alike, which means how they distribute their estate will need to be tailored to their unique circumstances. No standardized form can fully account for the intricacies of an individual's personal finances or family dynamics nor balance those details against ever-changing state and federal estate tax and inheritance laws.

Below are 5 cautionary reasons to avoid using online estate planning documents:

1. Web-based forms may or may not be state-specific.

Many internet forms are drafted to meet specific state requirements. If you aren’t paying attention, you might purchase a form designed for a state other than where you reside. In this case, the document may not be valid in your state. Similarly, a generic form may not provide all the necessary tax and estate planning protections available in your state.

2. Standardized forms don’t keep pace with changing laws.

Online legal documents are often created and marketed but not regularly updated to meet changing tax and estate planning laws. This could create costly problems at the time your estate is distributed to your heirs.

When you work with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, your estate plan will conform to current tax and inheritance laws. As laws change, your attorney will advise you of any future updates that may be needed to your estate planning documents.

3. You have significant assets requiring tax protection.

If you have amassed significant assets to pass onto your heirs, you might be able to shelter those assets from inheritance taxes, preserving your wealth for your beneficiaries.

Only an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to assess your estate and guide you about protecting your investments and assets from unnecessary taxation during your lifetime and after.

4. Unusual family dynamics.

Personalized estate plans consider the varying aspects of today’s modern family, where standardized forms do not. Situations involving blended families, adopted children, estranged family members, and minor children all require special attention when drafting an estate plan.

Web-based documents don’t provide legal advice.

When you purchase and online will, you are purchasing a formatted document designed for the simplest of circumstances.

Meeting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney allows you to thoroughly share your circumstances and review the many options available to ensure your wishes are carried out and your heirs protected.

Why You Need a California Estate Planning Lawyer

Sometimes, trying to save time and money in estate planning through web-based documents ends up being more costly in the end, not only in terms of money but in frustration and worry over potential problems. Before using any standardized estate planning documents, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney in your state.

If you reside in California, working with a California estate planning attorney can assure that your estate planning documents comply with both California and federal laws. Further, there is an invaluable component of the attorney-client relationship, as it fosters essential dialogue regarding your needs and how to meet those needs through medical directives, powers of attorney, wills, and trust options.

Contact our office today for a consultation regarding your estate planning needs. Together, we will assess your situation and review estate planning tools that will best protect your interests and your legacy.


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