An effective estate plan should be as simple as possible, so long as it carries out your wishes. However, some want you to believe that you need only purchase their “form” to have an effective estate plan. Using this form, you are told, can save money and -- best of all -- the form is valid in all 50 states.
If the cost of an estate plan is measured only by the cost of the document, that form will likely be cheaper. After all, it does not attempt to account for your individual circumstances. However, if cost includes the confidence that your estate will be carried out the way you intend, using a form may be the most expensive method of all.
The fact that a form is valid in every state is not much of an advantage. This just means the form is so general that it meets very basic requirements. Those requirements have nothing to do with your specific wishes for your estate.
Problems are much more likely to arise because a will or trust, although valid, is ambiguous. Because it is up to you to “fill in the blanks,” a form can do little to help ensure your Will or trust properly states your wishes and avoids unforeseen consequences.
An ambiguous Will or trust can create serious conflict. I have seen a family torn apart because of a “valid” but unclear Will.
The deceased had properly “filled in the blanks.” But this husband/father used language that one son felt left him the right to significant assets. Years of litigation ensued, and while the legal issues have been resolved, the family relationship has not healed.
A form may very well be sufficient to create a “valid” Will or trust. But this is a very different issue than ensuring your estate plan is effective.
© 2017 Steven J Wright