THE RISKS OF LOW-COST ESTATE PLANNING
Do you really want to leave your family with a legacy of “cheap legal” during the most tender and sensitive time of their lives … when you are either hospitalized or have passed on and they are in grief and stress?
So, what is “cheap legal” ? Cheap legal is the kind of estate plan you get when you work with a cut-rate lawyer, rely on your “legal insurance plan” for your will or trust, or use services like pre-paid legal that are incentivized to get you one-size-fits-all documents as fast and as cheap as possible.
A plan that is affordable and effective
Yes, you need to choose the most affordable, yet effective estate plan you can. And, in some cases, that may mean learning to create your own legal documents instead of choosing “cheap legal,” and getting the least expensive estate plan you can, which will cost your family so much more. To learn what you can do yourself, what you need a lawyer to do, and how you can get your estate plan created as effectively and affordably as possible, watch our free training.
HOW YOUR FAMILY GETS STUCK IN COURT AND CONFLICT
Your family is unlikely to benefit from
the cheapest estate plan you find.
These days, with the technology tools available, legal documents should be (and in most cases) are free. Google “create my will online” and you’ll find plenty of solutions. But, how can you be sure that will is going to be what your family really needs in the event of your incapacity or death, or that you filled out the form correctly? You won’t. And, chances are, you will not have.
So you go to a lawyer who will fill out the forms for you, but if they are part of the “cheap legal” movement that is all about getting your will or trust as cheap and fast as possible, there are going to be many holes in those forms that are likely to leave your family stuck in court or conflict, even though you paid for an estate plan.
This is exactly what happened to our founder, Ali Katz’s, family when her father-in-law died. And it’s why Personal Family Lawyer exists today.
The $3,000 Estate Plan that failed
When I (Ali Katz, creator of Personal Family Lawyer) was in law school, my father-in-law died. He had spent $3,000—comparable to $5,000 in today’s dollars—to work with a law firm 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.
At the time, he got 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 out of date. And his assets weren’t even titled in the name of his estate plan.
On top of that, they hadn’t even been inventoried, so to this day, we’re still finding assets like this one in the Florida Department of Unclaimed Property.
I thought for sure, this must have been malpractice.
But my work at one of the most famous law firms in the country confirmed: This was common practice.
Lawyers everywhere were putting in place form documents 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.
Form documents, no updating of the documents or regular communication with the 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, not ensuring that assets were 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 roles that left the kids at risk of being taken out of the home and into protective custody while the will and named guardians were located.
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 needed it and provide not only true peace of mind, but a process that would support my clients to not just plan for death, but to become better parents, better business owners, and better community citizens during life, as well.
Now Personal Family Lawyer® members across the globe are being trained in the right way to plan for families and be there for your loved ones when you can’t be.
The failure of "cheap legal"
“Getting Three Estimates” doesn’t work
A common recommendation is to get three different “estimates” for your estate plan, evaluating them primarily on cost. But this is the fastest way to leave your family with an empty set of documents.
Personal Family Lawyer firms have seen this over and again. Families in grief come with an old binder full of out-of-date estate planning documents that sat on the shelf for years. While promising false security, they offer more cost and more conflict.
Instead of price shopping, ensure you are working with a trusted counselor keeping up on your Life and Legacy plan, updating at regular intervals, and providing legal advice should you or your family need it. All are delivered through flat-fee, affordable pricing.
HOW ESTATE PLANS FAIL
5 built-in risks of "cheap legal"
1. Pay once, no follow-up.
After you leave the attorney’s office, the least expensive plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on — your life changes, the law changes, and your assets change over time; your plan must reflect those changes. If you only pay a few hundred dollars for a plan, a lawyer cannot afford to provide anything more than documents that won’t get updated. It simply does not work as a business model.
2. The ‘one-stop-shop’ lie.
Financial professionals often sell cheap estate plans to convince you to give them your money, not to look after your family’s interests. A lawyer who serves your family’s best interests cannot make a living by selling $399 plans. The only way to make a living selling cheap documents is to sell annuities and life insurance products to your family that they don’t need.
3. All you get is forms.
In the event of your death, forms and documents won’t be there for your family. Instead, you want to leave your loved ones a relationship with a trusted advisor whom you have built trust with during your lifetime.
4. Family is left with a mess.
It’s your family who pays the price for what you buy. Documents and forms can be put in place, but they don’t guarantee that your assets are owned correctly or updated over time. This might seem like malpractice, but it isn’t. It’s a common practice that puts your family at risk if something happens to you.
5. Assets go to the State.
The purpose of an estate plan isn’t to simply set it and forget it. In order for it to be effective, it must stay up to date with changes in your assets, the law, and your life. State governments hold millions of dollars in unclaimed property. The usual way it ends up there is when someone passes away or becomes incapacitated and their family loses track of it since it wasn’t well tracked while alive.
PERSONAL FAMILY LAWYER
Create a plan that works
for your family.
The people you love lose out if you shop around for the cheapest estate plan rather than putting in place a plan that works for them.
Consider consulting a Personal Family Lawyer® for a plan review if you already have an estate plan but are concerned it may not be suitable for your family’s needs.
Learn how to plan for
your family’s future.
There are many basic considerations when planning for your family’s security. But if you’re like most people, chances are good you don’t have all the information you need to make confident decisions to create that security.
Details about guardianship, assets, long-term care and more. “Wear Clean Underwear” puts that knowledge in your hands and helps you safeguard the future of your legacy and family.