How “Shopping Around” for An Estate Plan Could Leave Your Family With an Expensive, Unintended Mess
by Jeni Snider, a North Carolina Estate Planning Attorney based in Raleigh
Maybe you’ve heard that before investing in a professional service you should “get three estimates.” While often this is wise advice, it’s actually a bad idea when it comes to estate planning. This article explains why and how you can ensure you get the most efficient and affordable plan possible for your family without shopping for estate planning lawyers the way you may think.
Let’s begin with why “getting three estimates” for an estate plan doesn’t work to actually get you what you want.
First and foremost, this recommendation assumes that you should be shopping for an estate plan based on cost and that you understand exactly what you are shopping for and how to evaluate those estimates.
Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is 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 actually work for your family when they need it.
Unfortunately, the negative effects of cheap estate planning are seen all the time. After the death of a loved one, family members discover during a time of grief that the fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security is actually full of out-of-date estate planning documents and then they find themselves stuck in court or conflict, even though that’s exactly what their loved one thought they had paid someone to prevent 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 will leave them with a big mess instead.
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; your plan needs to keep up with those changes. The truth of the matter is that a lawyer can’t afford to provide anything more than documents that won’t get updated when you pay only a few hundred dollars for a plan. The business model simply doesn’t work.
That’s why … "cheap" estate plans are often sold by financial professionals who want to get their hands on your money, not do right by your family. An attorney who has built a practice to actually serve your family in your best interest cannot make a living selling $399 plans-- only insurance and financial professionals getting paid commissions to sell your family annuities and life insurance products you don’t necessarily need can make a living selling cheap documents. Buyer beware!
Forms and documents won’t be there for your family when you can’t be. You want to leave your loved ones a comprehensive plan, organized important information and a relationship with a trusted advisor who has already communicated with them as the plan was created and updated.
You get what you pay for and it’s your family that pays the price. You need a law firm that will help you make sure assets are owned in the right way and your plan stays up-to-date over time. You might think it’s malpractice if you never hear from the lawyer if the documents become obsolete because of changes in your circumstances or the law, but it’s not. It’s common practice and it leaves your family at risk if and when something happens to you!
An estate plan isn’t just documents, but should also include a system for an inventory of your assets. There’s currently more than $910 million in unclaimed property held by the State of North Carolina. Property typically gets there when someone dies or becomes incapacitated and their family loses track because assets weren’t well-tracked during life. Certain assets, like cryptocurrency, are at an even higher risk of being lost or inaccessible.
If what you want is the false security of a cheap estate plan, go online and do it yourself. Chances are, you haven’t done that because you know that’s risky business and you love your family too much for that.
Well, it’s the same way when you are shopping around town for the cheapest plan possible. Because you love your family, you don’t actually want the cheap plan.
You want a plan that’s going to work for the people you love, when they need it.
If you already have an estate plan in place and you are concerned you may have gotten a cheap plan that won’t actually serve your family when they need it most, or it hasn't been reviewed in a few years, contact me for a plan review. You can either have me do it for you, or you can save some money by doing it yourself with my guidance and then come in to discuss what you discovered along the way.
Click here to get on my calendar. We begin your planning process with a Life & Legacy Planning Session, during which you’ll become more financially organized than you ever have been before and you’ll finally be in a place to make informed, educated choices about the right plan for your family based on the things that really matter, instead of just shopping around by price.