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Estate Planning Attorney or Document Preparer? Who will you Trust your Legacy with?
By: Zachary S. Dana
© 2013

Today, people who need an estate plan commonly choose between hiring an attorney or hiring a non-attorney document preparer. Lots of times people wonder what the difference is between the two choices. Document preparers have a reputation of being cheaper than attorneys and maybe they would like people to believe that they deliver the same service as an attorney. However, non-attorney document preparers are prohibited from analyzing a clients situation and giving legal advice based on the information (this is the practice of law). Individuals who feel comfortable using a standardized form may prefer to use a document preparer. However, those who want to be certain a legal document covers their particular goals and want assurance things will work properly after their death should see an attorney. Sometimes the cost savings of the initial set up of an estate plan is lost multiple times over in the end due to higher administration expenses of an estate plan because it was not custom tailored to specific needs of a client. In other situations, there may be actual savings but the end result is a distribution of assets that does not reflect a person’s specific desires or goals are left unmet because the plan did not plan specifically address them.

Several legal documents exist which can accomplish different things. To further complicate things, each legal document has certain clauses that can drastically change the functions of the document. These clauses may provide a benefit or a detriment depending on your specific situation.  The value of an Estate Planning Attorney is not only the actual document that is prepared but also the custom provisions that are added to cover a client’s specific goals. Since non-attorneys are unable to practice law, they provide documents that accommodate commonly encountered situations.

I have recently reviewed quite a few trust documents that were prepared by legal document preparers. The documents were decently constructed; however, it often becomes obvious that the documents are not constructed to fit the particular needs of the client. This can make the document more difficult to administer and some goals may go unfulfilled as  a result.

Ultimately, both Estate Planning Attorney’s and Legal document preparers likely agree that every family can benefit by creating an Estate Plan.  Each family is left to make a determination as to whether they want to purchase a document (by a document preparer) or whether they want to meet with an individual that can listen to their particular goals, bring potential concerns to light, provide advice, and create a plan that gives legal effect to the particular client’s wishes in the most efficient way. This is done by an Estate Planning Attorney.

Dana Law Firm has many years of experience in providing Arizona families with Estate Plans that are custom tailored to their needs. Call today for a free consultation to put a plan in place that will benefit you and your family for years to come.