Estate planning is an essential process that involves making decisions about the distribution, and management of your assets and affairs both during your lifetime and after your death. It allows you to determine how and when your assets will be distributed among your beneficiaries, whether they are family members, friends, or charitable organizations. It ensures that your wishes are followed and minimizes the potential for conflicts or disputes among your loved ones.

Further, estate planning can help minimize estate taxes and other taxes that may be levied on your assets. By employing various legal strategies and tools, you can potentially reduce the tax burden on your estate and preserve more of your wealth for your beneficiaries.

Estate planning is vital for protecting your loved ones, especially if you have minor children or family members with special needs. Through estate planning, you can appoint guardians for minor children, establish trusts to provide for their care and education, and ensure that individuals with special needs receive the necessary support without jeopardizing government benefits. A well-designed estate plan can help your estate avoid probate, which is a time-consuming and costly legal process of validating a will and settling the estate. Utilizing techniques like living trusts or beneficiary designations, you can transfer assets to your beneficiaries more efficiently and privately, bypassing the very public court-administered probate proceeding altogether.


The Rising Trend of DIY Legal Solutions


Estate planning documents have been the same for a while, but have become more and more accessible. The danger comes when one uses them unadvisedly. While they may seem cheap or convenient, some risks include inadvertently overlooking crucial details or making errors that could have severe consequences due to a lack of knowledge of the law. Legal matters can be complex and nuanced, and DIY legal documents typically provide generic templates that may not address your specific circumstances or the legal requirements of your jurisdiction. Simply put, it is physically impossible to know what you don’t know!  In this area, what you do not know can literally cost your family tens of thousands of dollars.

DIY legal solutions often only provide the most current forms of legal information. Laws and regulations can vary across jurisdictions and change over time. Using obsolete or incorrect forms can result in invalid documents or legal problems down the line. Similarly, generic legal templates cannot account for the unique aspects of your situation. Your situation, goals, and preferences may require customized solutions that DIY documents may not provide. Without individual tailoring, you may miss out on important legal protections or fail to address specific concerns.

Legal matters such as estate planning, business transactions, or family law involve intricate considerations. DIY solutions take the most common approach to the majority of legal situations, but do not offer legal solutions that may be needed for a family’s unique circumstances and may not cover all the contingencies required to address these complexities. Seeking professional legal advice ensures that all relevant aspects are properly addressed. Nothing is a substitute for a live human being when it comes to critical communication. DIY legal documents typically do not come with personalized legal advice. Legal professionals, such as attorneys provide valuable insights, explain legal concepts, and ensure that your documents accurately reflect your intentions.

Further, downloaded legal solutions rely on your understanding of the law and ability to complete the forms accurately. Small mistakes, oversights, or omissions can have significant consequences and may lead to legal disputes or invalidation of the documents. Legal professionals can help minimize such risks by providing thorough review and verification.

Additionally, it is not just the creation of the documents, but also the care taken in ensuring that the trust is properly funded, understanding which assets are subject to its jurisdiction, which are not and what will be the impact, not just of the initial transfer, but also at the time of distribution.


The Attraction of Online Legal Services

An online legal service for documents can be cost-effective often costing far less than the initial attorney charge – if they are done well, and there is no high risk of failure. As discussed above, this is not the case for downloaded legal solutions; the cost of the mistakes will far outweigh the initial savings, both in dollars and the trauma to the family. They have the superficial appeal of convenience and time-saving, but at the end of the day, if your estate is diminished, or in the worst case, lost, then you absolutely did not save money. Or, in cases where your distributions were reduced or redirected to the wrong party, then your well-intentioned efforts were thwarted.


Understanding the Importance of Customized Estate Plans

One-size-fits-all documents don’t work for everyone because most people have widely varying objectives. Estates can vary immensely, just as the number and type of beneficiaries can. Depending on your goals and your beneficiary class, how you prioritize the following concepts will result in a different type or style of estate plan: asset distribution, minimizing taxes, protecting loved ones, avoiding probate, incapacity planning, business succession, and charitable giving.


The Role of an Estate Planning Attorney

A qualified, experienced estate planning attorney can help you prepare your estate plan. An experienced attorney can help make sure that the estate plan is legally sufficient. They are useful in helping you design the plan that will meet your objectives and help you figure out what those objectives are. The attorney also has an eye on what happens next, what happens when the persons or loved ones do not act, do not have the experience, the maturity that is needed.

When you don’t know what the law allows, it is hard to design a plan. An experienced attorney like David Schneider has met with and helped many families, households, and individuals define their needs and construct a successful plan to meet those objectives. Through this experience, David can help anticipate your needs and explain what other similarly situated parties have done.

Estate planning is not a one-time event. Life circumstances, laws, and personal preferences can change over time, so it’s essential to review and update your estate plan with a professional to ensure it remains current and aligned with your goals.

Estate planning consultations are available virtually and in the office, and David is happy to help clients throughout California. He has helped thousands of families set and achieve their estate planning goals. David sees clients by appointment only to ensure that each has his undivided attention. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today at 805-374-8777 or We look forward to hearing from you and helping you set up your comprehensive estate plan, including a trust, a pour-over will, durable power of attorney, advanced healthcare directive, and nomination of a guardian and special needs trust, where needed.


You can learn more about the Law Offices of David R. Schneider and read past blog posts here