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We often run across people who have attempted to complete an estate plan using forms they find online or with the latest zippy law online website.  Unfortunately these unsuspecting folks often get what they paid for — which is not much.  Worse yet, the “free” or “low cost” resources in the end frequently cost much more than the unsuspecting victim had hoped for.

Hands of business people or lawyers analyzing documents on tableA recent example we came across proves that these self help estate planning tools can be very dangerous when the victim does not understand the implications of what was being signed, or in the recent case, not signed.  In this particular situation, the client attempted to complete their estate plan by using a popular zippy law web site.  The questions on the web site brought the client to the option to purchase a trust, which they did.  Unfortunately the information on the site regarding how to implement the trust was either incomplete or simply not understandable to the zippy law customer.  Although the form was completed, downloaded and printed the customer failed to properly execute the agreement with witnesses and the other necessary formalities.  In essence, they failed to properly execute the document and therefore perfect their wishes.  This resulted in a serious disagreement among the customer’s family and eventually substantial fees related to a fight in the probate court.  What would have cost the customer a few thousand dollars if they had sought the advice of a competent estate planning attorney ended up costing the family tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting over what the unsuspecting customer intended with the poorly drafted and improperly completed self help forms.

As this example demonstrates the customer accomplished exactly the opposite of what they were trying to do.  If they had simply spent an hour or two with a qualified estate planning attorney and had the documents prepared, executed and finalized appropriately they would have saved their family much difficulty and grief.


The estate planning attorneys of Penzien & McBride, PLLC have been helping families and business owners with their estate planning needs for more than two decades. If you are looking for a compassionate professional that can help you through the estate planning process, conduct a review of your existing estate plan, or if you would like additional information about our services, give us a call at (586) 464-1900 or complete our contact us form.