In today’s electronic age, there is little you cannot with a few quick key strokes on your laptop computer. The veritable wealth of information flowing along the digital superhighway known as the internet definitely makes our lives easier in many respects; however, caution must be used when depending on anything you encounter on the internet – particularly something as important as a legal form. Like many people, you may be tempted to save time and money by using one of the numerous fill-in-the-blank Last Will and Testament or Trust Agreement forms you can find online. Given the importance of Wills and Trusts, however, is it really wise to use a generic form you found on the internet? The answer is a resounding “NO!” The list of reasons why you should not entrust your estate assets, and the financial stability of your loved ones, to a fill-in-the-blank form you came across on a website is virtually endless; however, some of the more important of those reasons are discussed below.
1. Questionable veracity. This one is simple – you never know what you get when you download something from the internet. Websites are intentionally designed to appear credible to the average consumer. In reality, however, there is often no way to know who owns the website, where the information on the website came from, who prepared documents offered for download, or even whether it is safe to download anything. It is particularly easy to scam people with estate planning forms such as a Last Will and Testament or a Trust because the person purchasing and using the form will most often be dead when the error or inadequacies of the form are uncovered.
2. Stale language and law. Laws relating to, and governing, Wills, Trusts, and Estates can, and do, change with some frequency. Many fill-in-the-blank Will and Trust forms do not keep up with those changes. Stale or out of date language in a legal form, particularly a Will, could cause the form to be effectively worthless.
3. Lack of a “Plan B”. Any experienced attorney will tell you that even the most well thought out and expertly prepared legal document does not come with a 100 percent guarantee that it will perform as anticipated. Furthermore, life itself comes with no guarantees. Therefore, one of the things you retain an attorney for is to know how to plan for possible problems in the original plan. In a Will, for instance, your attorney will know how to plan for the possibility that your Executor dies before you do, or your spouse dies at the same time as you, or even the chance that you win the lottery and then die before you have the opportunity to update your Will. An attorney can cover all the bases with a “Plan B” – something a generic form cannot accomplish.
4. Not state specific. For the most part, state law governs issues related to estate planning. That means that what is required to execute a Will in one state, for instance, might not be the same as what is required in another state. Likewise, the procedures for terminating a Trust in one state might not be the same in another state. Many generic Wills and Trust Agreements fail to mention this, and even if they do they may not stress the importance of revising your Will or Trust if you move from one state to another. Again, the problems this can create will generally not become apparent until the Will is submitted for probate and at that point it is too late to correct the problems because the Testator is dead.
5. Absence of advice. Only a licensed attorney can give you legal advice. This is not only a commonsense rule, but a law. Therefore, a boilerplate Will or Trust form you find on the internet cannot come with any meaningful legal advice. Not sure how to protect your hard-earned assets from being squandered by an adult child with an alcohol problem? You can’t ask a fill-in-the-blank form for advice on that one. Unsure what happens to your jointly owned home or bank account when you die? Again, no insight will be forthcoming from a generic form. Only an attorney can answer your legal questions.
The bottom line is that the time and money you save by using a fill-in-the-blank Will or Trust Agreement you find online will often be overshadowed by the time and money your loved ones will spend trying to fix the problems in those forms after you are gone. Instead, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys atNash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.