If you think you’re being wise to shop around for a “good deal” on an estate plan and that all estate plans are created equal, you’re absolutely dead wrong. Shopping around for an estate plan based on price is a BAD idea
and will fail your family.
Look, I’m sure you’ve been told before that when investing in a professional service, from hiring contractors to renovate your home to hiring financial advisors, that it’s best to shop around and “get three estimates” to get a “good deal.” Now, while this Dave Ramsey/Suze Orman style of consumer shopping is many times a wise idea, it’s actually a very bad idea when it comes to shopping for an estate plan. You see, this recommendation of shopping around and getting three estimates ASSUMES that you should be shopping for an estate plan based on price and that you fully understand exactly what you are shopping for in your estate plan and how to evaluate your estimates.
In reality, shopping around for an estate plan based on price and trying to get the best deal possible is the fastest path to leaving your family with an empty set of one-size-fits-all documents that won’t actually work for your family when they need it. Yes, even if that cheap estate plan you got on a deal comes in with a beautiful binder, will just not be worth the paper it’s written on.
Unfortunately, I see the negative effects that cheap estate planning has on family members who come to me during a time of immense grief after their loved one passes away. They show me their beautiful estate planning binder, that sat in the closet for years, filled with out-of-date estate planning documents. These documents ended up failing the family, since the family found themselves stuck in a long, expensive probate court proceeding. These proceedings forced them into conflict between each other, even though their loved one who passed away paid some estate planning attorney years ago to create a plan specifically to prevent the family from being in probate court and conflict.
That’s what happens when you make shopping around for an estate plan based on price more of a priority than creating an estate plan that will actually work when your family needs it to and to ensure the plan keeps your family out of court and conflict.
Now, to illustrate this point, I want to tell you a real-life story of what happened to my mentor with her father-in-law’s estate plan.
My mentor was still in law school when her father-in-law died. He had spent $3,000 creating estate planning documents that he was told would keep his family out of court and out of conflict with his ex-wife when either he died or became incapacitated. He got a nice, thick set of documents, a beautiful binder, and peace of mind. He put the binder on the bookshelf, never looked at it again, and never heard from his lawyer ever again. Years and years later, he died thinking it was all handled.
You can imagine how shocked my mentor and her family were when they found themselves stuck dealing with the probate court and her father-in-law’s ex-wife. All of the things her father-in-law wanted to prevent his family from having to deal with when he got his plan. It turns out that his fancy set of documents had never been updated. so they were out-of-date and his assets weren’t even titled in the name of his trust. So, his estate plan failed and my mentor and her family had to still go through probate court.
I want you to think about that for a second.
My mentor’s father-in-law spent $3,000 on an estate plan (which is not cheap) and it still didn’t work. We’ll discuss why it didn’t work in a second. I want you to think about this because it poses a question. If a $3,000 estate plan failed my mentor’s father-in-law, do you really think a $1,500 or $499 estate plan would have worked for his family?
It’s a trick question because I’m trying to make a point.
You see, when you make price the most important factor in your search for getting your estate plan done, then you’re making price your priority. Meaning, you will not make it as high of a priority to ensure you’re creating an estate plan that will actually work when your family needs it to and to keep them out of court and conflict. That’s what really happened to my mentor’s father-in-law.
At first, my mentor thought her father-in-law’s estate planning attorney committed malpractice, but after my mentor went to work at one of the best law firms in the country, and then reached out to hundreds of other estate planning lawyers just to confirm this. She found out that this was not malpractice at all. This was common practice. Attorneys all across the nation were putting in place form documents that they know wouldn’t work when their families needed them to.
It’s not because they’re bad people or bad attorneys, either. It’s simply because that’s the system they were trained on: form documents, no updating of the documents, no regular communication with the clients once the plan was done, no inventory of the assets to ensure that all assets could be found by the family after the death or incapacity of a loved one, and not ensuring that assets were titled properly to make sure the plan even works to keep the family out of court and conflict.
On top of that, my mentor later discovered that the estate plans attorneys were putting in place for families with minor kids at the home had huge holes that left the kids at risk of being taken out of the home and placed in the care of Child Protective Services while the families will and named guardians were being located.
Unfortunately, I can tell you from my own personal experience in the estate planning industry that these outdated practices are still common place at so many law firms out there. Many families are still being shoved into these out one-size-fits-all documents that will fail them just like when they failed my mentor’s family when her father-in-law passed away. Just like they failed my mother and I when my father passed away with an estate plan that didn’t work, which forced my own mother into probate court for almost 3 years and she ended up having to pay her probate attorney $55,000 by the end of it.
When I became an estate planning attorney, I made a commitment to create something truly meaningful for my clients. You know, estate plans that would work when their families needed it and to provide not only true peace of mind, but a process that would support my clients to not just plan for death but to become better parents, better business owners, and better citizens of the community during their life as well.
Again, I cannot stress you enough how bad of an idea it is to make it a priority to shop around for an estate plan based on price. Your priority should be first and foremost to ensure you’re creating an estate plan that will actually work when your family needs it to and that keeps them out of court and conflict.
If you have questions about this topic, or need to talk about your estate planning needs, you can schedule a time to speak with me on the phone for FREE.
This article is a service of estate planning attorney Elliott Feldman and the Elliott Feldman Law Group. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Prosperity Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Prosperity Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 planning session.