Boilerplate wills and trust documents that can be purchased online, or in stores are not geared toward anyone’s specific circumstances. You are not a boilerplate person and your circumstances are not boilerplate. The boilerplate forms rarely take into consideration the variances in your life, which can include spouses and ex-spouses, or significant others, children, personal property, real property, businesses, other assets, inheritances, and much more.
An attorney should assist you in figuring out what you need to create to get what you want.
Today’s reality involves Facebook, Google, Twitter, and blogs. The Internet is the new library. For example, you can find forms on the internet for almost any purpose. Many people pull forms off the Internet and fill in the blanks. Without the requisite background knowledge, you could be creating a bigger problem than you think you are solving. If you do not understand the requirements and ramifications, as well as legal meaning and application of the document, don’t do it yourself. This is because it will cost you more to correct an improperly-prepared document than you can save by doing it yourself.
For example, deeds are a very common problem. I have had to go to trial on numerous improperly prepared deeds where boundary issues were created by the deed, or ownership remained in question, where easements caused potential loss of property,s or access was denied.
It is surprising how easy it is to make a mistake, and going to trial to fix a mistake is expensive.
The same is true for creating your own estate plan using boilerplate forms. Forms do not take into consideration what you want for your loved ones.
First of all, you need a personalized plan. A specific custom plan for your loved ones’ care should be created, as well as a specific plan for assets and business based on what you want to happen, not on what some form that doesn’t know you or your situation provides.
Sometimes, more than one or two plans will be needed. If you want to keep your children out of the Child Protective Services program if something happens to you, a plan should be created and put into effect immediately, even as soon as a child is born. Naming a guardian in a Will is insufficient. The police will take your child or children, and they will be turned over to Child Protective Services, which will turn them over to a foster-care family unless you have the proper documentation in place.
Many attorneys don’t know that providing the name of a guardian in a Will does not protect the child in the event of an emergency. You can change your plan as circumstances and needs change.
The problem for most people in creating a plan with an attorney is usually procrastination. Taking time to spend an hour with your attorney is often perceived as unpleasant. This should not be the case.
Filling out forms is not a personal customized plan that meets your needs. Utilizing purchased will forms or a will copied from a friend or elsewhere can put your surviving family into Probate Court and freeze your assets so the person you thought you were taking care of and protecting is stuck spending what they have in a trial or trials. Your assets could be frozen and unavailable until the court allows distribution. All can be lost. I urge you all to find an attorney who cares, who informs you of all the options, who is comprehensive and understanding and wants to take care of you and your family. You will be glad you did and the relief takes a burden off your shoulders that you may not have known was there until it is gone. Anything less is unacceptable. Contact me for a complimentary consultation.
(Editor’s Note: Drue Morgan-Birch is a real estate and family attorney, practicing law for more than 30 years. The Tucson attorney can be reached at 620-9367, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)