Should You Use Estate Planning Software?

April 15, 2013  |  William F. Huefner

Estate planning software, like a do-it-yourself will template, can create a very problematic situation for your loved ones after you die. There are 5 primary reasons why you should steer clear of this option.
Poor Asset Protection
Tax laws are complicated, far more complicated than most software accounts for. If you want to make sure most of your estate stays in the hands of your family and not in the hands of Uncle Sam or Minnesota Revenue then you should steer clear of estate planning software.
A good estate attorney can help you take advantage of tax laws to maximize the inheritance that you leave.
Software Can’t Handle Common Issues
Most people’s estates just aren’t as simple as they imagine. Situations that look straightforward on the surface aren’t straightforward in the eyes of the law.
Do you need to set up provisions for a disabled adult child? Do you want your grandchildren to inherit – but not your living children? Are you trying to leave money to your stepchildren? Do you want to leave the entire estate to charity, cutting your family out of the process entirely?
These are just examples of situations that are very common but which are too complicated for estate planning software to handle. Each of them needs the advice and skills that an attorney can provide in order to guide the situation to the outcome you are hoping for.
Software Creates Unintended Consequences
Have you ever observed that legal documents are somewhat complicated to read? They’re full of specialized language and sometimes seem even a little redundant.
This is because legal language has to be incredibly clear and precise to reach its intended goal. If that language is off, even by a little bit, then you could open your family up to situations you never wanted.
Those consequences could be financial – like double taxation – or they could be emotional, like the children of one marriage losing a large portion of their inheritance to the children of the other marriage.
You wouldn’t even be able to spot the problems in the language. You’d need legal training to do that.
Software Can’t Keep Up with the Laws
Laws governing estates, transfers of assets, tax issues and wills change on a regular basis. As attorneys it is our job to keep up with those laws and to take those changes into account.
Software programs are not equipped to keep up with those laws. Even software programs tied to online databases might offer real problems if those databases aren’t updated fast enough.
Fixing the Problems Costs More than Doing it right the First Time
You may think that you’re saving time and money by using estate planning software. Unfortunately, if there are any problems you or your heirs will wind up having to consult a lawyer to fix them.
By then, your document may already have produced legal consequences that require very complex fixes – fixes that can cost up to three times as much as getting the job done right the first time.
Here at Barna, Guzy, and Steffen we’ve been guiding people through their estate planning for over 35 years. If you live in the Minneapolis area give us a call. We’re ready to listen to your unique thoughts and needs and to translate those into strong documents that the law will respect.