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Problems with On-Line Wills & Trusts

On-Line Wills & Trusts: What Can Go Wrong?

In our Probate practice, we often come across Last Will and Testaments or Trusts that have been prepared on-line. Sadly, in about half of those situations, the document is so legally defective that it is invalid.

Each client at Peters Patchin & Monaghan receives individual attention to the unique details of his or her family, assets, and other circumstances. Estate planning partners, Ben Monaghan and Daniel Patchin have a wealth of experience in preparing Wills and Trusts since that – together with probate – is all that they do. Our firm has just the tools that will be needed to craft your unique Idaho estate plan that will provide for those you love in your absence.

While it is relatively easy to buy an on-line version of what purports to be a Will or Family Trust, doing so comes with significant risks. The truth is: One size does not fit all.

Wisdom dictates that, when a lifetime of accumulated wealth is on the line, it is a good idea to have the matter handled by an Idaho attorney who has taken the time to become familiar with your circumstances, aspirations, and family relations. That way, documents that are custom-tailored can be carefully crafted to not only accomplish your desires, but to do so in a manner that is least likely to fuel a feud between family members after you’re gone.

Though it is possible to utilize estate planning documents purchased on-line, we find that major problems with such documents tend to fall into three categories.

Improper Signing

The most common failure is that the Wills or Trusts are not properly executed. Idaho statutes are surprisingly inflexible when it comes to the signing of these crucial documents. For example, a Will that is set up on a computer and then only signed by the person making it is invalid. If it is signed by the person and only one witness, it is still invalid. If it is signed by the person and two witnesses, it is valid. But even in that case, upon the death of the person who made the Will, the heirs may need to be able to locate at least one of the witnesses and submit an affidavit signed by that witness attesting to the signing. The best signing here in Idaho involves the person signing the Will, plus two witnesses and a notary public, all being together at the same time for the signing. And the notarization should include a specific affidavit for the witnesses to affirm.

Contradictory Provisions

The next danger arises from documents having inconsistent provisions. These tend to arise in documents that are generated by software that fails to explain carefully the alternate provisions that are offered. Sometimes more than one of the inconsistent alternates is left in the final document which creates a contradiction that may lead to a legal dispute over the meaning of the document.

Incomplete or Missing Related Documents

Finally, for Family Trusts and Living Trusts purchased on-line, the most common shortfall is missing documents. Not all of the necessary documents are included and put into effect. In particular, if a person creates a Family Trust and neglects to create and record a deed moving his or her home into the trust, much of the benefit of the trust will be wasted. The heirs will still be required to go through a probate process. And, even when such a deed is prepared and recorded, it is crucial to also prepare, record, and file other documents necessary to preserve the “homeowner’s exemption” for property tax purposes. Failure to do that may result in property taxes being increased as much as $2,000 per year. Likewise, a thorough Family Trust package will include Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, and other such documents.

For these reasons, it is always advisable to have your estate planning documents prepared, signed, recorded, and notarized by an Idaho attorney who specializes in this field. Cutting corners runs the risk of turning what you had intended as a blessing for your loved ones into a bitter legal feud. Why risk your hard-earned wealth to save a few dollars?

The Solution

If you would like to learn more about avoiding such problems, please give us a call at 208-939-2600 to schedule your free initial consultation. Or you can schedule your expedited appointment at your convenience by clicking on either of the yellow “Schedule Now” boxes on our Home Page.

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I was completely satisfied with the entire process. In a few short weeks I had a completed trust tailored to my specific needs. It was so easy! The timeline and costs were stated up front, and every aspect was handled with the utmost professionalism, what more could one ask for? The website is extremely helpful. 5 stars to Barry Peters! Melissa S.
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