What are the Risks of Buying an On-Line Will or Trust?
Though it is possible to utilize estate planning documents purchased on-line, the major problems with such documents tend to fall into three categories.
The most common danger is that the Wills or Trusts are not properly executed. Idaho statutes are surprisingly inflexible when it comes to the signing of these critical documents. For example, a Will that is set up on a computer and then signed only by the person making it is invalid. If it is signed by the person and 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 making 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 correct signing involves the person signing the Will, plus two witnesses and a notary public, all being together at the same time for the signing.
The next danger arises from documents that have inconsistent provisions. These tend to crop up in documents that are generated by software that fails to explain carefully the alternate provisions that are offered. Often 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 document.
Finally, for Family Trusts purchased on-line, the most common shortfall is missing documents. Not all of the necessary documents are 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, most of the benefit of the trust will be wasted. The heirs will still be required to go through the probate process. And even when such a deed is prepared and recorded, it is critically important to also prepare, record, and file other documents necessary to preserve the “homeowner’s exemption” for property tax purposes. Failure to do so 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 related documents.
For these reasons, it is advisable to have your estate planning documents prepared, signed, recorded, and notarized by an 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 battle. Why risk your hard-earned wealth to save a few dollars?