The Academy’s training on initial consultations is coming up in February, which is always a great reminder of the real value that we, as Academy lawyers, offer our clients. Anyone who knows our organization can tell you that our clients don’t come to Academy attorneys as a result of bargain shopping. And this is a good thing.
Why? Because, as in so many areas of life, estate planning bargains often end up costing more in the long run. One example of this is an article that was published in the New York Times last fall that highlighted what may be the ultimate in bargain estate planning: online Will-drafting software. The article’s author used four different online services to come up with four very different drafts of her Will. When she had the drafts reviewed by an estate planning attorney, a multitude of problems and potential problems revealed themselves. These problems ran the gamut from a Will that lacked any provisions for distributing the testator’s property, to potential estate tax issues, to a service that did not provide a Self-Proving Affidavit along with the Will.
The common denominator among all of these Will-drafting websites is that, at the core, clients are walking away with do-it-yourself documents. These sites are careful to advertise that they don’t offer legal advice, so clients with no knowledge of the law end up with an “estate plan” that may or may not perform as they intend. And we all know the potential costs, both monetary and emotional – of a faulty estate plan.
In fact, we all have seen the commercials on TV by drug companies extolling the virtues of this drug or that drug. At the end of the commercials you see fine print and hear a voice talking at a lower volume and quicker pace say things like there may be side effects which include, depression and you may have thoughts of suicide. If this happens to you be sure to consult with your doctor. When I hear that I always think, this might be too late. Same holds true for estate plans, when you find out it did not work, it is usually too late!
These online services view estate planning as a commodity. They convince clients that the documents are the only thing that’s important, and that establishing an estate plan is as simple as answering an online questionnaire or filling in a few blanks. Unfortunately, many attorneys have bought into this approach, and attempt to compete in this commodities market, where the only leverage is price.
Academy lawyers take a different view. We don’t offer commodities. Instead, we look for clients who want real answers to their issues, in the form of a transformational experience. Our goal is to build an ongoing relationship with each client, and these relationships often last a lifetime, even becoming multi-generational within a family. This is something you just can’t get from a website.
Sanford M. Fisch
CEO & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd., Ste. 240
San Diego, CA 92124