Funeral & Estate Planning

Buyer beware of national online legal document services

Posted March 05, 2014, at 9:56 a.m.
Tracy J. Roberts is an attorney with Rudman Winchell.
Courtesy Photo
Tracy J. Roberts is an attorney with Rudman Winchell.

As a working mother, I completely understand how busy life can get. You realize that you need an estate plan to manage your affairs if something happens to you, but finding the time to actually think about and develop a plan gets lost in the whirlwind of a day.

Of course, we have all heard about the online legal document services that offer you inexpensive estate planning documents. Online document services offer a tempting bargain. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize what they are getting themselves into with an online document service. That’s because the online document services have spent millions of dollars in trying to create the impression that their services are similar to those of an attorney. They put lawyers in their commercials, hire celebrities to endorse them, and even promote stories of people who have successfully used their documents.

All the marketing in the world, however, can’t erase the simple truth:

The online services are not law firms. They are not lawyers. They can’t give legal advice.

Instead, they are “document assistants,” a term that states use to define service providers who type your information into generic form documents.

In other words, a document assistant is like a robot that enters your information into a form, whether or not it makes sense and whether or not it is a good idea. If you make a mistake, they can’t warn you. If you have questions, they can’t help you.

They can’t even promise you that your estate plan will work in the way you envision it. They are not attorneys, which means they can’t promise a particular legal result.

Which is why I am so excited to be a part of Rudman Winchell’s new online estate planning service. By using our online service, you get the ease of using an online tool to create your estate plan, with the assurances that an attorney is reviewing your documents.

Plus, the prices for this service are set, not charged by the hour, so you won’t break your budget with any surprise costs and bills.

So, how does this service work? There is a simple questionnaire that, depending on your circumstances, takes about an hour to complete.

Once you submit the questionnaire, Rudman Winchell prepares draft estate-planning documents (Will, Power of Attorney, Advance Health-Care Directive), and your estate plan is reviewed by one of our estate-planning attorneys.

We then email or mail the drafts to you for review. Once the documents are to your satisfaction, a meeting is scheduled with either me or another estate-planning attorney in our office to review your documents to ensure that you understand how your estate plan works and for you to sign the documents.

We think you will find this service to be an easy, convenient, and affordable way to give your family security and peace of mind. For more information, please, visit our Estate Planning website at e-stateplan.com

Tracy J. Roberts is an attorney with Rudman Winchell.

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