When And Why To Avoid “Do It Yourself” Estate Planning Services
You may have heard about various companies that promise to deliver legal services for a fraction of the cost of full-time attorneys. “Alternative Legal Service Providers” (“ALSPs”) may be advertised on television or sent straight to your email inbox. These offers are enticing because they promise to help you with much-needed tasks such as drafting a will or even putting together a comprehensive estate plan.
Whether you aren’t sure where to turn or are living on a budget, the appeal of an Alternative Legal Service Provider is understandable. These companies tend to provide fixed-rate services for tasks such as legal document preparation that are often less than what you’d pay through a law firm. ALSPs rely on technology that can provide legal documents for people with minimal time, effort, and face-to-face interaction to make these products cheaper. These services have grown in popularity over the past 15 years, with ALSPs generating over $10 billion annually.
The benefits of using a “do it yourself” legal approach is straightforward for many: cost savings, “a la carte” services, speed, and efficiency. Through the Covid-19 pandemic, services such as these also offered the benefit of being available remotely to anyone with computer access.
Drawbacks of Alternative Legal Services
An alternative service provider for estate planning may seem to meet your needs on the surface. They can be cost-effective, and you will usually come out of it with a legally valid document that serves as a will and indicates your preferences. However, there can be some long-term disadvantages:
- Alternative Legal Services Providers are For-Profit Corporations. While their stated purpose is to help people meet their legal needs while saving money, their goal is also to make a profit for themselves. They do this through computerized systems that minimize overhead and person-to-person interaction. While this can reduce the fees paid upfront, it also maximizes profit for the service provider. With these services, you are a customer, not a client.
- Alternative Legal Services Lack One-on-One Help. You may have the assistance of a customer service rep in a chat box, but that is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with an experienced legal professional that has helped individuals and families just like yours over the years. Using a tech service to perform critical estate planning tasks can sometimes raise more questions than answers, especially for those seeking a “human touch” with their estate.
- Nationwide Vendors Don’t Understand Florida Law Like a Florida Attorney Does. Each state has its own particular sets of laws, regulations, and customs to follow regarding estate planning. A “DIY” legal template might be able to plug in the correct names and citations of Florida statutes but won’t know precisely how these laws will interplay with your unique situation or how you can apply knowledge of Florida’s laws on wills and estates to your advantage.
- Short-Term Savings Can Lead to Long-Term Costs. The planning and administration of your estate is a complex process that may involve valuable real estate, property, and trusts to benefit your family and beneficiaries. Small mistakes or oversights at the planning stage can often lead to costly consequences at the administration stage. For example, your family could be left with a hefty tax bill that could have been avoided through better alternatives during estate planning. Saving a few hundred dollars now can often cost thousands of dollars later. Even worse, these problems could require you to hire an attorney at a later date to correct mistakes that happened while trying to avoid legal costs.
- Alternative Legal Services Seldom Replace Qualified Legal Help. If you read through the advertisements and emails offering Alternative Legal Services, you will notice the disclaimers stating that they are not providing legal representation for you. All states, including Florida, have strict laws about who can provide legal advice and representation, for a good reason. Critical decisions affecting your legal rights and property should be made with the assistance of a Florida estate planning attorney who knows the dynamics and the law.
Contact an Experienced Tampa Estate Planning Attorney to Get One-on-One, Personalized Advice Today
These days, you can find many services online that claim to meet your estate planning needs and will even prepare a will or other legal document for you. When handling the life, property, and wealth you’ve built, you don’t want to leave that to an online service and people you will never meet. Our Tampa estate planning lawyers at Strategic Counsel Law Group, L.C., will provide valuable face-to-face interaction and advice and will take the time to review each of your concerns.