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How online estate plans can let you down

Only about 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have a will or other form of estate plan. That means more than half of those who pass away leave their assets and the welfare of their families in the hands of the state. If you are among the 60 percent with no plan in place for the end of your life, you may be considering how to make that right.

Like many in Colorado and across the country, you have probably explored the tempting online alternatives for estate planning. They are cheap and offer an array of options, supposedly meeting whatever goals you have for your plan. However, before you place your trust in one of these online documents, you may wish to understand how complex estate planning really is and how poorly an online will may meet your needs.

The complexity of a solid plan

If you are one of those shoppers who prefers to use the self-checkout to avoid having to chit-chat with a checkout clerk, you may also find the same anonymity and privacy appealing in estate planning. After all, if you take your business to an attorney, you may have to delve deeply into the matters of your estate, your family dynamic and your own mortality. Unfortunately, those discussions may be critical if you are going to achieve what you hope to with your estate plan.

At the very least, a complete plan could include these items:

  • A will and a named executor
  • A trust with a successor trustee
  • A power of attorney to handle your financial and legal matters if you become incapacitated
  • An advance health care directive if you are unable to speak for yourself regarding your medical needs.

These articles are delicate and unique to you, and a fill-in-the-blank document may not provide adequate information to avoid a dispute among your loved ones or hold up if the matter goes to court.

Online estate plan shortcomings

A do-it-yourself will may be fast and inexpensive, and you may even be able to pay extra for the deluxe package that includes all four components of an estate plan. However, many online forms are vague and generic. In this way, people in most states can use them. Unfortunately, this same vagueness may also cause an online estate planning document to lack conformity with Colorado's probate laws.

If you have little knowledge or experience about estate planning, you may not even realize what options exist for your circumstances. The surest way to obtain the most complete information about the appropriate plan for your situation is to speak in person with an estate planning professional.

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