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The Suspect Promises of Legal E-Services and Self-Help

It is said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” The recent hardships have, for many, turned their thoughts toward their loved ones’ futures, and brought into focus the need to prepare. Thankfully, when it comes to securing the comfort of our families, the law offers something better than daydreams—it offers assurance that the goals, carefully set for our loved ones’ security, will become enforceable obligations. This is fitting, as the hard-won achievements of a lifetime deserve protection just as strong as the effort spent in earning.

However, the law affords this protection only when utilized correctly. It is therefore unfortunate that the urgency of the times can tempt some to resort to what seems quick and easy, like the use of legal e-services or self-help to draft estate planning documents. Though this route may appear cheap and convenient, this is often an illusion obscuring a hard reality awaiting heirs. In contrast, hiring a local attorney offers the following certainties:

  • Intimate familiarity with controlling state law. Documents such as Wills and Powers of Attorneys are governed exclusively by state laws, which are continually reinterpreted by state courts. Often e-services and forms embody the law of another state, such as California or New York. Hiring a local estate planning attorney assures that your documents are effective where you live and that the most up-to-date rules are employed.

  • Personalization for your unique needs. Each person, what they leave behind, and their family’s needs are different. These differences are difficult to capture in fillable boxes on generic forms, and as a result, issues are missed and crucial advice remains unspoken. Hiring a local attorney means receiving comprehensive advice, tailored precisely to the client.

  • High standards and accountability. Purveyors of online self help are most often faceless and attempt to disclaim liability for shoddy services in the fine print. A local attorney is licensed and regulated by a code of ethics which includes a duty of competence. In a world where we take the time to know where our broccoli comes from, it only makes sense to know exactly who it is helping us make the final disposition of our life’s work.

The real cost of e-services or self-help gone wrong usually accrues only after a person has passed away. The individuals who pay are typically the very loved ones the estate plan was meant to protect. Improperly drafted documents can create hardship for heirs and waste assets through fees spent on litigating the meaning or validity of a document, and at worst, may fail in their purpose completely. Wishes are for wells and cakes, not estate plans. Work with an attorney to ensure your goals become reality.

By: Attorney Christine Wolfe

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