Can you Trust your Online Trust?

Online trusts are a common and increasingly popular option as more and more people take to the internet for all of their daily needs. In our instant society, we can do our banking, bill paying, shopping, communicating, and business online with almost instant service. That convenience has even transcended to the legal level. More and more organizations are putting their documents online. People can fill out the forms while using an internet connection and send them straight to a government inbox. This eliminates the dangers of losing valuable information in the mail, and wipes away the days of hand cramps from holding a pen for too long and filling out stacks of paperwork at the kitchen table.

Yet online legal services can be dangerous. According to WealthCounsel member David Hiersekorn, there are many hidden dangers to the DIY wills and trusts that are being offered on various websites. This advisor says that you only get one chance to create an effective will. If you pass away and the will is not upheld, you will never know. Your children, on the other hand, will receive the brunt of that painful mistake. Online, plenty of websites say that you can create your own estate plan with a couple of clicks. Many of these “plan-your-estate kits” say that you can bypass using a lawyer. They also claim that you can have your will or trust set up and ready to go in a matter of hours.

Despite the popularity and the tempting offers, advisors say that you should bypass the online do-it-yourself option when it comes to wills and trusts. These documents are serious, life-altering materials that could help or hurt your children and family when you pass away. Taking a risk with a cheaper and “easier” option may cost your family more than they bargained for and make things very difficult for them. Most people don’t realize that online trust and will establishments are nothing like the real thing. The websites are not law firms and there are not lawyers involved. You will not have an attorney by your side to give you legal advice and suggest special provisions regarding your unique situation.

Instead, these websites only offer document drafting services. Website employees will plug your basic information into the forms online, and officiate it. They will not ask you whether or not you want to look at will or trust options or make special provisions because of a unique family situation. The employees at these DIY websites are not permitted to give you any legal advice, even if they know that you are making a mistake on your documents. By law, they are only document assistants that cannot give counsel as to how you should conduct your estate planning. The document assistants also can’t tell you whether or not your will or trust will be effective when employed.

For example, if you have a special needs child, there are special provisions that you can make so that that child can inherit while still being eligible for government Social Security Disability benefits. The DIY websites probably won’t tell you this, and you could jeopardize that child’s financial situation by merely including him or her in your will as a typical beneficiary. Online document assistance services will claim that they can give you the documents that you need for a fraction of the price that you would need to pay for an attorney. Yet what they fail to tell you is that an attorney will help you with various documents and offer helpful advice as your create your will, trust, or other estate planning documents. So skip the online option and hire an attorney to help you with your future planning today.