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Estate planning is one of the most important things we can do to ensure that our assets are protected after death, that our loved ones are taken care of and that our wishes are carried out according to our specific instructions. With the advent of websites offering estate planning documents, many have come to rely on this option for their estate planning.
Unfortunately, these websites and templates are not as promising as they appear to be. The templates may have errors rendering them useless. Often, the forms contain provisions that contradict one another or they are missing key provisions entirely, and some have even been known to be misprinted, completely disinheriting loved ones, or even providing for inheritance to complete strangers!
Even if some users get lucky and receive a valid will, these documents still lack the customization and context that an experienced estate planning attorney would include to ensure a smooth process for loved ones during an already tense and difficult time. The age-old adage of “you get what you pay for” is perfectly exemplified in this context.
Let’s look at an example of what could go wrong with the use of these services. In a recent Virginia Supreme Court case, Mark drafted his own will using a template found on the internet. The will named his brother, Nidal, as executor of Mark’s estate. When Mark died, he was survived by his wife, Sarangerel, and two daughters — Amanda and Maya.
Mark passed away in 2019, at which point Nidal asked the court for guidance regarding the administration of Mark’s estate, asserting that he was the sole beneficiary of Mark’s estate, pointing to several provisions in Mark’s will. Sarangerel, Amanda and Maya disagreed with this, arguing that Mark’s will named them as the beneficiaries by pointing to several other provisions in Mark’s will that contradicted Nidal’s claims.
After several appeals, the case reached the Supreme Court of Virginia, which ruled that the will’s several provisions were contradictory of one another, creating excessive ambiguity in terms of whom Mark intended to benefit under his will. Due to Mark’s choice to use an online estate planning service, his family had to endure over three years of costly litigation to determine who was to benefit from his will. Dagvadorj v. Aljabi, et al., Record No. 210785; (unpublished order) Oct. 20, 2022.
With the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, this nightmare can be easily avoided. Let’s now look at a case where a person retained the law firm General Counsel P.C. to help navigate this complex process.
Jane is a retired executive — over her career, she built a successful business that allowed her to live a comfortable life providing for her, her children and her spouse. Jane knows that she needs to prepare an estate plan to ensure that after her death, her family is taken care of, her hard-earned assets are protected and her post-death wishes are followed.
Jane knows that to ensure these goals, she will need the help of an experienced attorney. She retains an attorney at General Counsel P.C. She is immediately greeted by a warm and welcoming team, ready to assist her in creating an estate plan that will ensure the protection of her interests.
After a couple of meetings with the attorneys at General Counsel P.C., Jane receives a thorough and personalized set of documents that are tailor-made for the success and protection of her goals. Jane can now rest assured that when the inevitable happens, her loved ones will be taken care of and her interests protected.
This highlights the importance of working with an experienced estate planning attorney to create your estate plans. The estate planning attorneys at the law firm of General Counsel P.C. are experts in all matters related to wills, trusts and estates. We can assist you in creating a truly customized estate plan that will ensure the success of your estate planning goals. We would welcome the opportunity to provide professional guidance through the complex estate planning process and help you protect your interests.