We have all heard it, and many of us have said it, “I need to get my estate plan done.” This is usually as far as the conversation goes because it is a touchy subject, it can be expensive, and it takes time. Particularly after the COVID-19 Pandemic, there are many online options for estate plans.
Great, right? It solves the problem of having to discuss a difficult topic with a lawyer and your family members, it is cheap, and it is fast!
These estate planning tools cannot, and do not, replace the value that you receive from a well-drafted, well-thought-out estate plan.
Related Post: The Importance of Estate Planning
You and Your Family's Emotions
A computer cannot assess the emotional state of your family and how your estate plan will affect that; it cannot tell you all of the options that you have, and which are best, based on the very specific situation you are in. Online estate planning programs often offer very limited plans that are the same for each and every individual. Further, they are often incredibly misleading, causing you to believe that you are receiving something you are not.
What About Digital Assets?
Possibly the worst of all of the online estate planning options is the digital asset planning tool provided by many companies. You have probably never thought of what would happen to your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, airline miles, reward programs, or other online accounts when you are gone. You need to.
However, you do not need to pay a company to keep a record of all of your accounts and passwords to hand over to someone when you are gone. There is nothing wrong with helping you keep track of your passwords and passing those on to someone you trust later. But instead, they advertise the program as an all-inclusive plan where you can elect a beneficiary for your accounts and their contents. The program leads you to believe that something like the money in your bank account, through online access, will avoid the probate process and pass directly to your loved ones.
This is simply not true. In reality, if your online-appointed beneficiary logged in to your account after your death and removed the money, they could be in a great deal of trouble.
Related Post: Estate Planning for Digital Assets
Estate Planning the Right Way
The only way to pass assets of any kind, digital or otherwise, to a beneficiary is through a correctly drafted will or trust. Do not be fooled by online tools that say they will solve all of your estate planning needs; you will simply be wasting your time and money. Instead, invest that time into selecting a competent attorney to meet with and discuss the broad range of options you have.