A common question that we receive when talking to potential clients about doing an estate plan for is “Why should I pay more to use you guys instead of LegalZoom?” This is a legitimate question. As of the date of publishing this post, LegalZoom offers an estate plan that is significantly less expensive than the estate plans or trusts that we offer. However, although LegalZoom may appear less expensive than our estate plan package, our service provides a greater value to our clients.
What does LegalZoom provide in its estate plan package?
LegalZoom (as of September 2018) offers an estate planning bundle for $149 for one person and $249 for two people. Included in this estate planning bundle are a last will and testament, durable power of attorney and a living will. Also included is one year of “attorney advice” relating to your estate plan. This one year of attorney advice is part of LegalZoom’s prepaid legal services plan which includes 30 minute sessions with an attorney through the LegalZoom prepaid legal services platform, one one-hour legal checkup per year, and included legal reviews of documents up to 10 pages in length. The major caveat with the prepaid legal services plan is that each 30 minute session must be for a “unique legal issue.” LegalZoom does not define what a “unique legal issue” is, so it is uncertain whether this limitation will decrease the value of the service.
What does Richert Quarles P.A. provide in our estate plan package?
In comparison, Richert Quarles P.A. offers our basic estate planning package for $600 for one person and $800 for a married couple. This package includes the following documents: last will and testament, durable power of attorney, living will, designation of health care surrogate, and declaration of preneed guardian. Therefore, our estate planning package includes two additional documents that are unavailable at LegalZoom. A designation of health care surrogate is an important document that allows for you to appoint a trusted person to represent you in health care decisions in the event you are incapacitated. A designation of preneed guardian allows for you to name someone to be your guardian in the event your are incapacitated and one is required. Therefore there is additional value over LegalZoom with the additional documents provided in our estate planning package.
However, the real difference between our estate plans and estate plans from LegalZoom is the personalized, face to face service that we provide. We include with every estate planning package a free initial estate planning consultation prior to hiring us, so that we can review your prior estate plan to see what changes may need to be made. Also included in our package is unlimited consultation with our attorneys throughout the process to make sure that the estate plan that we draft for you best reflects your wishes. Most importantly, you have a licensed, experienced Florida attorney advising, drafting, and supervising the execution of your estate planning documents. Therefore, you will have the piece of mind that the documents were drafted in compliance with Florida law and will have the best chance of carrying out your desires when needed.
Are there any additional benefits to working with an attorney for your estate plan?
The additional intangible benefit of working with one of our attorneys for your estate plan is that our attorneys always look at your entire situation. This includes asking you about your bank and investment accounts and making recommendations about placing beneficiaries on those accounts if it makes sense for your situation. We will also look at your real property and what can be done with it to avoid probate. We can discuss whether a trust may be a good option for you and your family. If you were to just make a will and be done with your estate plan, you may be missing out on some other helpful estate planning techniques. Most worrisome is if your estate planning documents do not do what you want them to do when you need the documents. This is why we always try our best to make sure that the estate plans we provide clients will be effective to enforce our clients’ wishes when the documents are needed.
What are some issues that I should look out for when choosing a service or attorney to create my estate plan?
As always with legal issues, there are some pitfalls that you may need to consider when creating your estate plan. The first is that you need to make sure that your will, and the other estate plan documents are properly executed. Under section 732.502, Florida Statutes, a will needs to be executed in a specific manner to be valid in the state of Florida. I’m sure that you think it’s easy to make sure that a will is executed properly, but we’ve seen it done improperly by people doing it themselves before.
Another issue is the self proving affidavit for a will. A self proving will is a will that includes an affidavit at the end where the witnesses and testator (person who created the will) swear before a notary that the will was executed properly. Under section 733.201, Florida Statutes, a self proving will can be admitted into probate without further proof. If a will is not self proving, then the personal representative will need to track down one of the witnesses to go to the courthouse and swear in front of a deputy clerk that the will is authentic! This can create problems if the personal representative cannot locate a witness or if both witnesses have passed away. Therefore, making sure that the will is a self proving will is important to make things easier and faster when opening probate down the road.
The other major issue that we see with estate plans deals with durable power of attorneys. Sometimes people have durable power of attorneys that are not in compliance with section 709.2202, Florida Statutes, which requires specific powers to have a initial next to them for the powers to be effective. Even though this statute was amended in 2011, we still sometimes find recently executed durable power of attorney documents that are missing this requirement. If a power of attorney executed after 2011 does not have the initials next to each of these specified powers, the agent does not have those powers. This mistake requires a new durable power of attorney to be executed. If the principal is incapacitated, this can be a problem for the agent in providing care for the principal.
This set of examples are only a small selection of potential problems that can arise with an estate plan. There are many other problems, such as undue influence, that can arise with estate planning. The attorneys at Richert Quarles P.A. represent personal representatives in probate administrations and in probate litigation. As a result, we know about the many problems that can arise with estate plans and may be able to help avoid them.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
The best part of our service is that we provide free, in person or over the phone, estate plan reviews and consultations to potential clients. This way you can evaluate our recommendations and cost to make a decision that works best for you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to talking or meeting with you.