If you’ve followed my work as an Orange County trust attorney for any length of time, you’ll know I’m not a big fan of Do-It-Yourself trust drafting software that you can purchase online through places like Legal Zoom or RocketLawyer.
That’s because the boilerplate language that you just “plug” your name and personal information into rarely serves to protect families when unique life circumstances arise down the road.
But what if I said working with a lawyer can leave you just as vulnerable to this exact same problem?
Curious how that’s possible?
It all stems from the fact that many lawyers use the same “find and replace” trust-drafting software that you can purchase online. The trust they give you is of no better quality or more tailored to your family’s unique needs than one you could have made for yourself.
Just to be clear—I’m not against trust drafting software. The software per se is not the problem. It’s paying extra money to work with a lawyer who just plugs your name into a computer without even reading what the software spits out.
For example, I often see US citizens have provisions built in their trust that only apply to non-citizens (there are special things you need to do under the law for non-citizens). The software just generates this language and the attorney fails to remove or amend what doesn’t apply.
And the most common boilerplate language that I often see go ignored is the decision about what happens to the remaining assets after the first spouse dies.
A lot of vanilla/boilerplate trusts have a mandatory division of assets with the decedent’s half going into an irrevocable trust. When I explain what this actually means in layman’s terms and how it will affect the family, many clients make it very clear that they do not want this and are shocked that they purchased a trust that would say that in the first place!
Of course the only way to fix things from here is to re-do the trust, which costs the family more time, aggravation and money in the long run.
So if you’re going to spend the extra money to work with a lawyer, be sure to do your homework and don’t just settle for someone willing to hand you a stack of documents. If he or she is not asking tough questions about your end-of-life wishes and explaining all the ramifications of the language in your trust, let that serve as a huge red flag to you to run the other direction!
Of course if you are now unsure whether your current trust will hold water when your family needs it the most, be sure to give our office a call at (949) 260-1400 and schedule a complimentary Family Wealth Planning Session ($750 value). We will review your documents free of charge so you have the peace of mind knowing your trust will do everything you expected it to at the end of your life.