The Importance of Attorney Reviewed Estate Plans

April 2, 2019, by Shelley Thompson, attorney with Burns Figa & Will, P.C.


While is the first attorney estate planning website, there are many non-attorney sites that merely auto-fill forms for the customer, including LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, Nolo, SuzieOrman, Willing, Fabric, and more. Customers of those sites do not necessarily understand that the forms being auto-filled for them are not appropriate for the client’s individual circumstance. As an experienced estate planning attorney and the founder of, I have reviewed documents from all of those sites and I can assure you – they are not right for the client’s individual situation! As a probate litigator, I have seen multiple disputes caused by documents created using these non-attorney sites or software. Here’s why having an attorney work on your estate plan is important:

  1. What should my estate plan say? When a client decides she needs an estate plan, she cannot always know exactly what terms should go into the documents. She may know she wants to make things simple for her family, or who she trusts to handle matters if she cannot, or have certain healthcare wishes, but typically the client does not know all the legal terms that are appropriate to include or exclude for her particular situation. For example, the client may understand that if she wants a trust to protect assets from her adult children’s creditors or ex-spouses, the trustee of that trust should not likely be the adult child himself. Perhaps the client would change her mind about a trust if she understood the cost of maintaining a third-party trustee over the years. That’s the first reason the client needs a lawyer – to understand the client’s situation and recommend customized terms that will go into the documents to address the client’s individual needs.

  2. What documents do I need? A client also needs help from an attorney to decide whether to choose a simple will, a living trust, or a will with a testamentary trust. There are pros and cons to each, but those pros and cons vary depending on that client’s particular situation, including their age, kids’ status, assets, titling, and the client’s unique priorities. It is very difficult for a client to determine which is most appropriate for her situation based on online research, when those search results do not take into consideration the client’s particular asset titling, kids’ situations, and other factors. For example, a client may have researched that a living trust avoids probate. But if the client is married and has everything titled jointly with their spouse, there would be no probate anyway until both spouses are gone. And even then, using a beneficiary deed or beneficiary designations could avoid probate in some circumstances, so this information would inform that client’s decision about whether to go to the trouble of using a living trust. That’s the second reason the client needs a lawyer – to determine which documents best suit that client in particular.

  3. How should my assets be titled or payable on death? One of the most important things an estate planning attorney does is advise the client on how to then title their assets or make them payable on death. With certain assets, the client needs to be advised to go to the bank and change title on an account to a trust, or jointly with a spouse, or payable on death specifically consistently with the client’s will or trust. There are countless estate plans created where the titling and beneficiary piece is left undone and the end result is the opposite of what the decedent wanted. That is the third reason a client needs a lawyer – to advise them on titling and beneficiary designations.

  4. Ask questions. The final reason using an attorney is important is to answer the client’s individual questions. Getting your estate plan in order is one thing, but feeling reassured that it is right for your particular situation is important!

iWillandTrust is the first website where an experienced attorney in your state communicates with you and customizes your documents based on your particular needs. After you answer about 30 minutes of questions, the attorney will call you to clarify any information or answer a question, customize your documents, and will then send them to you within days. Get the benefits of using a professional, conveniently from your home, and at a fraction of the cost. You don’t need to have answers ready because the site is user-friendly and guides you through the attorney’s questions, with explanatory videos along the way. There’s no longer a reason to put it off – use iWillandTrust today!