People often ask me if they should use an online will/trust package and avoid the time and cost of an attorney.
I always tell them that there are two good reasons:
- First of all, these packages are notoriously general and vague by necessity. In order to sell them in all jurisdictions (most claim: “Valid in all fifty states”), they either remove state specific provisions or add things that you probably don’t need in order to comply with some other state’s law. You end up with documents that may (repeat, may) be valid in Virginia but are not crafted to specifically comply with Virginia law.
- Secondly, unlike other products or services you can get on the internet, you cannot “test out” this product. “Do it yourself” legal documents might be valid and they might not. This is why all internet legal document sites try to avoid future liability by telling you in the fine print that you should have their documents reviewed by an attorney to make sure they have been properly completed – knowing full well that no one will do this. If you don’t do it, your heirs are likely to be the first to discover a flawed will after your death.
I tell people that they can go online and find instructions for removing their own appendix, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. You may do more harm than good. When you need medical attention, you should look for a good doctor. When you need legal representation, should look for a good lawyer.