Pandemic Drives Surge in Online Estate Planning:
Know Your Options

by Carol Butrus, Attorney/Shareholder

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused people to consider their estate planning in greater numbers. It’s no surprise that consumers are creating their wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives through a few popular legal websites because they are convenient and seem less expensive.

The convenience of online planning websites comes with a catch: Consumers don’t know their many asset distribution options, they have no access to an attorney to ask questions, nor do they understand the particular signing requirements. Online planning websites often leave the consumer with invalid wills or inadequate plans, which create bigger (and more expensive) problems after a loved one has become ill or passed away.

Common pitfalls within online estate planning programs include:

  • The forms do not take into account the variations in state laws
  • Improperly executed wills may not be valid or will add to probate costs
  • Gifts to minor children are overly simplistic
  • Little or no legal advice

People recognize estate planning as a priority but often delay because they don’t know an estate planning attorney, are worried the process will be expensive and difficult, and they do not want to think about their own death or incapacity. It is uncomfortable to deal with theses issues, and it is easy to put them off for one more day.

As attorneys trained to handle estate planning, we have dealt with the fallout from wills that were witnessed by the beneficiaries – or not witnessed at all (the signer thought the witnesses were optional) – wills that made gifts outright to minor beneficiaries, and wills that failed to mention their spouse (they thought their spouse would predecease them). Two of the examples above resulted in a more complicated probate procedure. In the other, we were able to replace the documents.

In the end, the legal advice the online programs try to avoid, require more legal advice. This is why the FBFK Estate Planning Portal was created. Our program combines the best of both worlds: Save money and create your plan through the FBFK Estate Planning Portal, then meet with an estate planning attorney to review and sign your documents. This two-pronged approach ensures your goals will be met and your documents executed properly.

The FBFK Estate Planning Portal is for people who want something simple, reasonably priced, accurate and quick. Our goal is to make wills and estate planning accessible to everyone. Whether you are a millennial with young children or a retired couple with no estate plan, our hope is that you consider our approach to ensure your documents are able to protect you, your family and your estate.