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Should You Use Online Forms or Services to Prepare Your Will or Trust?

Should I just use an online service such as Legal Zoom or forms from Suze Orman to prepare my Will or Trust?

While generalized electronic forms (such as those offered through companies like Legal Zoom and Suze Orman) may offer cost savings, in many instances online services are a risky option. Even if you think of your specific estate situation as “simple” the general nature of these online documents can cause many unanticipated complications down the road.

Estate plans work best when they are tailored specifically to you, your family situation, and your assets. For example, if you own real property (especially real property in multiple states), or if you have a blended family, a more customized plan will suit your needs better and help reduce stress and complication after you have passed.

If you have minor children or a family member experiencing disability, a generalized document will often not offer the best options for customizing testamentary trusts, delaying distribution to children, or tailoring guardianship instructions.

In addition, all-in-one forms often fail to account for individual state tax laws. The tax minimizing options available in one state may be completely different from those available in another state, and (especially in Oregon) preemptive estate tax planning is vitally important.

Finally, do-it-yourself estate planning forms don’t have the ability to see the big picture. Most often a full estate plan involves not only planning documents, such as a Will, Trust and Powers of Attorney, but also changes to beneficiary designations on your IRAs, annuities and life insurance policies. In this way all of the pieces to your comprehensive plan will work together. This is planning that must be done on a case-by-case basis, specifically tailored to your individual plan and assets.

All-in-all, while generalized forms found online can be attractive due to their immediate cost savings, the inability to customize the plan, the loss of tax-minimizing options, and lack of incorporating beneficiary designation advice will likely cost your family more down the road.

The attorneys at Fitzwater Law are always happy to answer your questions. Please give us a call today to discuss your estate planning options - 503.786.8191.

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