We have seen far too many costly situations when someone died with an online-created Will or Trust. We were recently involved in a Probate matter where a gentleman created a Will online leaving everything to a joint Revocable Living Trust with his spouse. He even wrote a letter explaining he wanted to give everything to her. It turns out the Trust was never properly created, and of course the letter had no legal effect. It was heart-wrenching to tell the grieving spouse that she has to vacate the house so it could be sold and his children could get their shares.
Another gentleman created an online Trust but placed nothing into it. The entire Estate had to go through the lengthy, expensive and unnecessary Probate process with the Maryland court.
A few years ago, our Probate client’s sister “drafted” a Trust leaving everything to her siblings with hopes of avoiding Probate. When she passed, her brother had dementia and lived in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid. The inheritance disqualified him from eligibility, and he now pays over $10,000 a month for care. A properly drafted Trust would have accounted for this, and kept the brother eligible for benefits.
Oftentimes, however, the online documents are completely unusable and we must advise the Probate client to proceed as if no valid Will was ever created.
Not all attorneys are created equal.
It is very common misconception that Estate Planning is easy and could be done by any attorney. This is not true. If you have a serious heart problem, you will hire the best heart surgeon available-you would never consider a dermatologist. Yet, we often see Estate Plans prepared by “door attorneys” who accept almost any case that walks in their door. You worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get where you are today. Don’t entrust your future estate, however modest it may be, to a lawyer who handles DUI’s, divorces, and Wills in the same week.
Laws are complex and evolve often. I am licensed in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and spent the first decade of my legal career almost exclusively handling Probate and Estate Tax returns for DC and Montgomery County clients. However, I no longer accept any cases from DC in an effort to focus on providing the best possible legal counsel for our Maryland and Virginia clients.
If you are a Maryland or Virginia resident and would like to help with protecting your assets and loved ones in the event of death or disability, please call us at 301-696-0567 or self-schedule at lenaclarklegal.com.