When it Comes to Estate Planning in the Bay Area, You Get What You Pay For

You have probably seen so-called “standard” (aka cheap) living trusts advertised all over the Bay Area. Seminars, direct mail, and telemarketing are all common marketing techniques for the companies that sell “Do-It-Yourself” legal plans.

But buyer beware! These one-size-fits-all estate plans are NOT created to deal with your unique situation or handle your unique assets. Without a plan suited to your individual needs, your assets may not go to the people that you’d like and could also cause confusion and undue stress at a very difficult time.

Many DIY legal companies lure buyers by claiming to use “real attorneys” to set up your trust, but often the attorney is just a front man and plays a very small part (if any!) in creating the trust or will. These companies may also exaggerate their ability to avoid taxes and protect assets. And the companies/sales people will never give you a chance to verify their credentials.

Many DIY legal companies will also use names that are intended to confuse you into believing that they are a part of a legitimate organization like the American Association of Retired People (AARP). Another common tactic is that they may talk you into designating a representative of their company to serve as trustee or executor of your estate. We’ve even heard about a company that suggested that people add them as an heir!

Rather than setting up fraudulent wills and trusts, some companies exist solely to steal your identity. They will try to scare you or make any promise you’d like to hear to get you to hand over your personal information so they can steal your identity.

You should never make a buying decision if you feel pressured to do so on the spot. Instead, take your time and reach out first to a licensed and qualified estate planning attorney here in the Bay Area. Even if you end up with a document that is titled “Trust” or “Will,” it may not be worth the paper that it is printed on. Trusts and wills are unique and will need to be updated throughout your life so they will hold up after you are gone. If your trust does not stand up then, it is no different than not having a trust at all.

A one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning is rarely the best plan for anyone and may make life even more complicated and costly for your heirs if something happens to you. If you’d like to better educate yourself in this area, we invite you to contact our Bay Area estate planning law firm to set up a consultation in order to review any DIY documents that you may be considering.

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