People often ask me why they shouldn't buy their estate documents online or purchase their documents from a paralegal. Of course, they are free to do what they want. However, when it comes to legal documents, you have to be very careful. You might buy the prettiest documents in the world. They might even come in a fancy binder. However, they may leave a lot to be desired at the end of the day.
When it comes to estate planning documents, you need to make sure you are dealing with quality. An attorney who is experienced in the field of estate planning knows the language that should be included depending on your situation. They've been "down the river" before, and they can often anticipate what might be a trouble spot for your family.
It is often what is NOT addressed in the documents that becomes a problem. There are many common issues in life that must be addressed in the documents. Therefore, if all your documents do is split up your estate among your heirs, that is often far too basic. Depending on your situation, an attorney with experience might recommend some kind of special language over another. Also there are many common provisions that should be considered when dealing with certain specific situations. Again, what is unaddressed can become a thorn later on. When a document is silent on a particular issue, that issue can become a big problem.
For example, a client came to me and asked why his brother should get a fair share when his brother had borrowed money from his parents several times over the years. When his parents passed away, his brother had borrowed about $100,000 over the years. He asked me whether or not his brother's share should be reduced by the amount of the money borrowed from his parents over the years. Of course, his brother wanted his share without any reduction. I explained the living trust did not address what to do with loans. The document did not say anything about reductions to account for prior loans. Therefore, since the living trust was silent on the issue, his brother was to get a fair share just like him. This of course caused a big problem between the brothers, and they don't speak till this day. This may not be an issue in your family, but most families have their own issues that should probably be addressed in the documents. Also, if issues are addressed in the documents, that causes less family problems because the documents say exactly what the Trustee is supposed to do. Nothing is simply left to the imagination.
It is very important to make sure your documents say exactly what you want them to say. Having a living trust and other estate planning documents in place is wise, but don't get inadequate documents that do not address your specific issues. Also, you want to revisit your trust and other documents over the years to make sure they continue to suit your needs and address your family's issues.