May 15, 2020
by Ryan G. Welker, Law Office of Ryan G. Welker
Over the past several years, purchasing items online has become more commonplace. It is true, you can pretty much buy anything online. You can even order groceries and have your favorite restaurant deliver to your doorstep. When we order from our favorite restaurant, we can order the “special” – that dish that is made the same way every time – or a “made to order” dish. They are both great, but the “special” (the “one-size-fits-all”) isn’t for everybody. There are times when we all want that delicious “made-to-order” meal made in accordance with our preferences.
Legal services can also be purchased online, including estate planning packages. A person can get the “one-size-fits-all” estate plan but not all plans are the same. Each client has unique circumstances – and each estate plan should address those different variables. An effective estate plan is “made to order.”
We are using technology more than ever. With that being said, we are not limited to the “one-size-fits-all” or the “special.” We can have a customized estate plan like we can have that highly customizable dish from our favorite restaurant.
Clients are quick to articulate their wants, goals and concerns. However, that may not be enough. An attorney can fill in the gaps by asking more detailed questions. Simply relying on online services, without the consultation of an attorney, may leave gaping holes that may undermine the client’s goals.
For example, a Power of Attorney created from an online form may provide too much power to the agent (i.e. unlimited gifting powers), or it may not provide any gifting powers at all (which may make planning for long-term care incredibly difficult if capacity is lost). Each individual client should direct his/her attorney on the scope of authority for the Power of Attorney – and it may be a compromise position with checks and balances in place.
Similarly, some estate plans deal heavily with tax planning, others do not require it. Knowing if tax planning is needed requires a keen understanding of current tax law. Additionally, some families want an inheritance to be received by a loved one at a particular age, or only allow them to be their own trustee at a certain age. Lastly, special needs considerations may need to be explored, especially since an inheritance could leave the beneficiary ineligible for means tested benefits that they have been receiving. These answers are far from “standard” and vary from client to client.
An attorney should be consulted to address specific needs. An estate plan should be “made-to-order” with the client’s goals, wants and desires in mind.