Consumers are becoming more confident that they can handle many common legal tasks on their own. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) companies have sprung up in many markets ranging from income tax preparation to estate planning, and these companies purport that their services are just as good as going to an attorney.

Those who seek to replace proper professional legal advice with a DIY online document in complex fields like estate planning should understand the effects of their actions. Even those consumers with fairly sophisticated skills should think twice before venturing into the world of legal documents. Consider eminent Judge Rifkind’s observation on the subject of tax law that “(a)fter 50 years of practice, I would no more have the audacity to formulate my own tax return than I would engage in open heart surgery.” Simon H. Rifkind, Are We Asking Too Much of Our Courts?, 15 Judges’ J. 43, 50 (1976).

People make mistakes when they fill out forms online, and answering one question wrong or neglecting to insert specific details such as appointing a guardian for your children in a legal document can lead to major problems in the future.

Unless you are single and have absolutely no money, you need an estate planner. We know what questions to ask, so that your wishes for your estate and your loved ones will be carried out in the manner that you have planned.

Our government is constantly changing the laws that affect estate taxes, and this coming year will be no different, especially if President-elect Donald Trump’s estate tax law changes are passed by Congress.

As an Estate Planning Attorney certified as a Legal Specialist in the field of Estate Planning, Trust and Probate law by the California State Bar, Board of Legal Specialization and as a member of the American Bar Association and the Orange County Bar Association, it is my duty, my privilege, and my responsibility to review all of the changes in the estate tax laws, at any given time, in order to provide my clients with the highest quality professional legal advice. Can the DIY companies claim to do the same?

If you are considering drafting a Will, a Trust, Power of Attorney for assets, or a Health Care Directive, please take the time to weigh out your skills in filling out an online form versus the professional legal knowledge and guidance provided through our office.

Whether you are considering establishing an estate plan for the first time, or whether you already have an established estate plan in place, remember to revisit your documents at least once every 3 years, if not once a year, to make any necessary updates due to changes in your life and estate. Changes often include the birth of a child or grandchild, a marriage, divorce, or remarriage in the family, change of address of a beneficiary, or the death of a loved one.

We hope that you find this information helpful. Please contact our office if you would like professional legal advice with your estate planning needs. We look forward to hearing from you.

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