Huffington Post: “As an estate planning attorney, I am often asked to transfer clients homes into their children’s names. The reasons given for the request include a desire to avoid probate, reduce estate taxes and to protect the home in event of long-term care claims. These are certainly worthy objectives. However, transferring your home to your children is a clumsy method of trying to accomplish your estate-planning goals. Having counseled thousands of families over the years, I can tell you that this well-intentioned transfer is more likely to do harm than good.”
Consumer Reports: A well-written will allows your estate to be distributed legally and efficiently, costing your beneficiaries the least money and heartache. But you don’t need an attorney to write a will. A number of software providers promise to help you draft a legal will for far less than you’d pay a lawyer.
Like tax software, these products guide you through an interview to draw out your intentions regarding, say, how you want your property distributed and who you want as executor of your estate.
We tested three electronic offerings: LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Quicken WillMaker Plus. The first two allow you to create a will online; the third is available as either a download or a CD-ROM (see Product details). First we created profiles of individuals from three different New York families. Our reporter then completed the interviews as if she were those individuals, drafting nine wills in all.
We sent the wills and interview records—with product identification hidden—to Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at the Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock who specializes in estates and trusts. Beyer judged each product on how comprehensive the interviews were and how much information was provided, and on the overall quality of the wills. Our reporter evaluated the software for ease of use.
Read more of the review of 3 DIY Will software products.
Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Blog: I recently receive a copy of Quicken Willmaker 2009. I have previously written about many articles about the unintended results that occur with Do It yourself and Free Estate Planning Documents created by individuals without the advice of counsel and the problems with online document preparation services like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer.
I decided to try out a few of the documents in Quicken to see if they had improved the quality and accuracy of their Florida documents. Last week I wrote about problem with the Quicken Willmaker 2009 Durable Power of Attorney. This week I will be looking a the Revocable Living Trust. I have previously written about the many problems in using Quicken to create a Firearms Trust but for this article I will be focusing on the typical issues with regular estate planning and living trusts.
Forbes: A will is one of the most important financial planning documents, especially as you move toward retirement. Yet an astonishing number of people of all ages still don’t have one.
Psychological factors are at play–it’s extremely stressful to confront one’s own mortality. Plus it’s painful to spend money on estate planning, because you don’t live to reap the benefits even if you know your heirs will.
Purveyors of do-it-yourself books, software and online forms are trying to change that. The cookie cutter documents they sell to help you generate a will cost a fraction of what many lawyers charge. Fueled by the technological revolution, these products have proliferated in recent years, with at least a dozen offered online, plus many books and assorted boxed software.
This development makes me cringe–so much, that I won’t mention specific products in this article, because I don’t want any of them saying in promotion materials, “As featured in Forbes.”
Why am I strenuously opposed to do-it-yourself wills? There are just so many things that can go wrong–from the wording of the document, to the required formalities for how it must be signed and witnessed before it can be valid. As the author of a consumer-oriented book, Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide, I make it a hobby of collecting DIY horror stories. And I’ve gathered some doozies. As Timothy E. Kalamaros, a lawyer with his own practice in South Bend, Ind., says, using a DIY will is like “pulling your own tooth with a pair of pliers instead of going to the dentist.”
Estate of Denial: In the rush to button down an estate plan, people often spend most of their time focusing on the big questions and overlook small—but increasingly crucial—details.
Even the simple question of who your heirs will be is getting more complicated. Nowadays more people are considering pets and even children posthumously conceived from genetic material in their estate-planning mix, say financial advisers. That often means setting up trusts that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable.
Forbes.com: Do it yourself estate planning? Would you also perform surgery on yourself? How about representing yourself in court – even with a couple of seasons of “Law & Order” under your belt?
With the help of Google and other search engines, we’ve become a society of “do-it-yourselfers” where seemingly everyone can repair a leaky shower, diagnose a medical condition or resolve a thorny legal matter. In the legal and estate planning community, practitioners have seen even relatively wealthy clients, who stand to benefit the most from expert planning advice, use consumer software to draft their own documents. Generally they are successful – at least as long as they are alive! Most will never know the woeful inadequacies of their self-drafted documents – this knowledge will ultimately reside with their families, often as they incur enormous legal fees on unsuccessful attempts to exact post-mortem modifications. There are dozens of websites that profess to offer you sage advice at a fraction of the cost of professionals. The problem is they usually can’t.