Why hire an attorney to prepare my estate planning documents when I can prepare my own documents online?

If you have conducted a google search on a product lately, you may have noticed that the product you searched pops up on your computer screen for days, even weeks, relentlessly tempting you to purchase the product that you have shown interest in.   If the product searched is an estate planning product, I urge you to use caution before purchasing the product.  I have had clients who attempted to prepare their own Will from a preprinted online product.   I have yet to see one of these online Wills that is more effective than a Will carefully drafted by an experienced attorney after consultation with a client. 

Every estate plan is unique but generally, most estate plans include a Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Health Care directive.   Templates of these documents can usually be found online from various venders.   Although it may be that you can save money by creating one or more of these estate planning documents from online templates or preprinted forms, if the template or preprinted form does not conform with state law, it could be challenged or worse, invalidated.   For example, RCW 11.12.020 states that every Will shall be in writing, signed by the testator or by some other person under the testator’s direction, in the testator’s presence, and shall be attested to by two or more competent witnesses, by subscribing their names to the Will, or by signing an affidavit that complies with state law, while in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction or request.  If these or other steps are missing from your pre-printed Will form, the Will is likely to be deemed invalid. 

After consultation with a client, an experienced estate planning attorney may feel that the size and complexity of the estate necessitates use of a trust, or that a community property agreement would be beneficial.  Using online vendors may skip valuable estate planning considerations like these.     

Hiring an experienced estate planning attorney can make your Will and other estate planning documents comply with state law which helps ensure against legal challenges and the failure to include important provisions.   Further, an attorney prepared estate plan can be instrumental in assuring that your wishes upon death or incapacity are carried out in the manner you intend.