A friend in New England recently decided to do a new will – his last one was done twenty-five years ago. A lot had changed. When he last updated his will he worked for a Fortune 500 company, had two kids in grammar school, all his assets except for retirement accounts were co-owned with his wife.
Twenty-five years later, those two kids are college graduates, his youngest is in college, he has his own company which is not co-owned with his wife.
So, it was time (well past time, really). Since he was an estate and business planning lawyer before he left practicing law, he decided to give in to the never-ending TV ads for Trusts & Wills(.com) and give it a try. He figured that they’d at least give him a solid, state-specific foundation to build on – he was, he thought, perfectly capable of adding clauses here to there to flesh out his wishes.
He thought the hardest part would probably be to find two witnesses to meet him at the UPS notary.
On he went. Nice website, easy to navigate, he set up an account, followed the prompts, filled in some information, and, after about twenty minutes, hit the last ENTER button. A non-downloadable will popped up in less than a heartbeat. Good looking document but nowhere near what he wanted or needed. He flipped through and realized it wasn’t even a good starting point for him.
To come close to doing what he wanted to do he would have had to rewrite at least half the clauses and, as he wasn’t up on recent trust and estate law in his state, he’d have to start doing the legal research he had sworn off years earlier.
The site informed him that if he ponied up a few hundred dollars more, he could upgrade to a more ‘complex’ will. He didn’t. Instead, he read the disclaimer, which he shared with me. Here are the highlights:
Trust & Will is not a law firm and does not provide any legal advice . . . You understand that your purchase, download, and/or use of a form document is neither legal advice nor the practice of law.
Our Services are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney.
At no time is an attorney-client relationship . . . created between you and Trust & Will or any employee . . . any information you provide us is not protected by attorney-client privilege or as work product.
Those words (there’s a lot more, too) set off warning bells in his head. He lives in a state with a baroque probate system that is little changed from the Revolutionary War. Probate with a less than perfect will could be an issue.
He’s headed to a local attorney ‘to do it right.’
We can’t help him here in South Carolina but we can sure help you!