In most cases, from the most sophisticated business people with the highest net worth to those just starting in the workforce and on their path to adulthood, you very likely don't know how to evaluate estimates when shopping for an estate plan.
Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is often 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 written on) that won’t work for your family when they 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a time of grief with that fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security, full of out-of-date estate planning documents, and find themselves stuck in what could have been an avoidable court process. Or, even stuck in conflict when that’s exactly what their loved one thought they had paid someone to handle for them.
Here Are 5 Reasons Why Shopping For The Cheapest Estate Plan Is Likely To Leave You With A Plan That Won’t Work For Your Family… And Could Leave Them With A Big Mess Instead.
01 | The least expensive plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on once you’ve left the attorney’s office. Your life changes, the law changes, and your assets change over time, so your plan needs to keep up with those changes.
And the truth is a lawyer can’t afford to provide anything more than documents that won’t get updated when you only pay a few hundred dollars for a plan. That kind of business model doesn’t work for the lawyer and won’t work for you.
An attorney who has built a practice specifically to serve your family in their best interests cannot make a living selling $499 (or even $2,000) wills, trusts, or estate plans. Only insurance and financial professionals getting paid commissions to sell your family annuities and life insurance products can make a living selling cheap documents. Buyer beware!
02 | “Estate planning” is often sold by financial professionals who want to get their hands on your “assets under management,” not necessarily prioritizing doing right by your family or keeping the people you love out of court or conflict. They may not even know how to keep your family out of court or conflict. When your estate plan has been sold to you by an investment advisor as part of your financial advisory and retirement support services, their focus isn’t on understanding the relational and legal dynamics of families, which can flare up after the death of a loved one. As “relational lawyers,” we’ve got specific expertise and training in pre-emptively identifying potential for family conflict and heading it off before it becomes an expensive problem. We’ve seen it all when it comes to families getting stuck in court and we can help you design a plan that keeps your family out of court and conflict.
03 | Forms and documents won’t be there for your family when you can’t be. You want to leave your loved ones a relationship with a trusted advisor with whom you have built a relationship during your lifetime and who has met them and they already trust.
Working with a lawyer who focuses on “the best documents” at the “lowest price” or doesn’t charge enough for their services cannot provide more than form documents. These days, especially with the rise of AI, template form documents are free for anyone to use, which makes it difficult to know how those documents are handled when it comes to protecting the people you love.
Shopping around for the least expensive plan may get you the cheapest documents, but those documents won’t be there to guide the people you love when they need someone to turn to in a time of crisis or grief. We will be.
04 | You get what you pay for. However, it’s your family that will pay the price. There are traditional law firms and online document preparation companies that use generic forms and documents. These are called “trust mills” and are firms and companies that draft plans but don’t ensure assets are owned correctly or stay up to date over time. You might think that’s malpractice, but it’s not. It’s actually common practice to leave your family at risk if and when something happens to you.
05 | An estate plan isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing, it needs to stay updated with changes in your life, the law, and your assets.
There’s currently more than $58 billion in unclaimed property held in departments of unclaimed property across the United States. Yes, that is billion with a "B." Assets often land there when someone dies or becomes incapacitated because their family loses track of it since it wasn’t tracked well during life. And that’s just one way your family loses out if you’ve shopped around for the cheapest estate plan rather than having a plan that works for the people you love.
Is Something Better Than Nothing?
Sometimes having something in place is better than nothing, but this is not one of those cases. In this case, having a “something” plan leaves your family holding the expensive or even empty bag when it’s too late for them and you to do anything about it. It’s risky business to leave your loved ones with a set of documents that you aren’t sure is going to work. Our guess is that you care for your loved ones too much for that.
Bottom line: don’t waste your time shopping around for the cheapest plan possible. You don’t want the cheap plan. You want the plan that will work for the people you love when they need it.
If you already have an estate plan in place that you have bought based on price and are concerned that you may have gotten a set of documents that won’t serve your family when they need it most, ask us about our 50-point assessment. Don't let your loved ones get stuck with an expensive, painful, and unnecessary court process or lose assets when it’s too late.
We begin our planning process with a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which you’ll not only become more financially organized than ever before, but you’ll finally be able to make informed, educated choices about the right plan for your family based on your unique family dynamics and your assets, instead of just shopping around for an estate plan based on price.
This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. 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 is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you have ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a planning session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
Disclaimer: All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney trained to work with families on estate planning matters regarding your specific situation. Use of and access to this website or any of the email links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, and any users or any other party.