By Taylor Haley
Maybe you’ve heard that before investing in a professional service you should “get three estimates.”
While often this is wise advice, it’s actually a bad idea when it comes to estate planning.
In this article, I explain why and how you can ensure you get the most efficient and affordable plan possible for your family without shopping estate planning lawyers the way you may think.
Let’s begin with why “getting three estimates” for an estate plan doesn’t work to actually get you what you want.
First and foremost, this recommendation assumes that you should be shopping for an estate plan based on cost alone and that you understand exactly what you are shopping for and how to evaluate those estimates.
Shopping for an estate plan with the idea of spending the lowest amount possible is 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 printed on) that won’t actually work for your family when your loved ones 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a time of grief with that fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security, full-of-out of date estate planning documents. They often find themselves stuck in court or conflict even though that’s exactly what their loved ones thought they had paid someone to avoid for them.
By Alexis Neely, America’s Family Business Lawyer™
“When I was in law school, my father-in-law died. He had spent $3,000 to work with a law firm in Florida to create estate planning documents that he was told would keep us out of court and out of conflict with his ex-wife when he died or if he became incapacitated.
“He received a nice thick set of documents, a fancy binder, and peace of mind. He put the binder on his shelf, never looked at it again and never heard from his lawyer again. He died thinking it was all handled.
“You can imagine our surprise then when after his death, we were stuck dealing with the probate court and his ex-wife – the exact things my father-in-law had spent good money to protect us from having to deal with.
“It turns out that his fancy set of documents had never been updated so they were completely out of date. And his assets weren’t even titled in the name of his estate plan.
“I thought, ‘For sure this must have been malpractice.’
“But after going to work at one of the best law firms in the country and then surveying hundreds of other lawyers just to confirm, I found out that this was not malpractice at all.
“This was common practice.
“Lawyers everywhere were putting in place form documents that they know won’t work when their clients’ families need them, not because they are bad people or bad lawyers but because that’s how they were trained.
“This model typically involves form documents, no updating of the documents or regular communication with clients once the plan was done, no inventory of the assets to ensure that all assets could be found after the death or incapacity of a loved one, and not ensuring that assets are titled properly to make sure the plan even worked.
“On top of that, I later discovered that the plans lawyers were putting in place for families with minor kids at home had huge gaps that left the kids at risk of being taken out of their home and into protective custody while the named guardians were located.
“This happened even at the best law firm in the country, which I worked at for three years after law school.
“When I left to start my own law firm, I made a commitment to create something truly meaningful for my clients: plans that would actually work when their families need it to give you true peace of mind, all through a compassionate process that supports my clients to not just plan for death, but to become better parents, better business owners, and better community citizens during their lives.
“Now Family Business Lawyers™ across the globe are being trained the right way to plan for families and be there for your loved ones when you can’t be.”
Here are five reasons why shopping around for the cheapest estate plan is likely to leave you with a plan that won’t work for your family … and will leave them with a big mess instead.
These are five ways your family loses out if you shop around for the cheapest estate plan rather than getting in place a plan that actually works for the people you love.
Plus, there is a risk that if you simply keep shopping around, you will never actually get around to putting a plan in place at all.
If what you want is the false security of a cheap estate plan, go online and do it yourself. Chances are, you haven’t done that because you know that’s risky business and you love your family too much for that.
It’s the same way when you are shopping around town for the cheapest plan possible.
Because you love your family, you don’t actually want the cheap plan. You want the plan that is going to work for your the people you love when they need it.
In the meantime, if you already have an estate plan in place and you are concerned you may have gotten a cheap plan that will not actually serve your family when they need it most, contact us for a plan review.
We don’t 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 Family Wealth 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 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge. Schedule online today.
My goal is to be your trusted advisor who helps you make the very best personal, financial, and legal decisions for your family throughout your lifetime. I want to help you not just now, but also when you can’t be there so that I can help guide your loved ones through a difficult process.