JUST DON'T: Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning

Posted by Peter D. Haroldson | Apr 16, 2020 | 0 Comments

You've seen the ads on your Facebook and Instagram feeds. . . .

  • "Complete your will online in only 10 minutes!"
  • "Exclusive pricing on your will & trust kit will save you thousands in lawyer fees."
  • "Originally a $2,500 value. . .yours today for only $69!"
  • "All your legal documents legal in all 50 states."

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our personal and financial worlds, it has also created a marketing opportunity for corporations, many from out of state, to solicit Washington residents to subscribe to services they don't need, or engage in “digital” or “online” estate planning.

Some corporations may try to get you to “subscribe” to ongoing prepaid legal services along with the creation of a will.   Others may want you to “subscribe” to store your documents online for a monthly fee or in exchange for receiving solicitations from people who pay for access to your data.  Some don't even help create the documents!  By the time you need access to your information, if you haven't maintained your subscription or if the website has shut down, your last wishes may be lost.  Your username and password may not be discoverable, leaving your relatives scrambling to get your private information without any authorization.  Some online services just pass your information as a “lead” to an attorney somewhere in your state who pays the service for access.

Washington does not recognize “online” wills.  Wills must still be in writing signed by the person making the will and attested by two or more competent witnesses who subscribe their names to the will, or sign an affidavit while in the presence of the person making the will.  See Revised Code of Washington Chapter 11.12.

Washington also does not recognize “online” powers of attorney.  A power of attorney must still be signed and dated by the person making it, and must be notarized or executed in the presence of witnesses who meet certain requirements.  See Revised Code of Washington Chapter 11.125.

Relying on “digital” or “online” estate planning can place you and your family at risk.  The nest egg that you built during your lifetime can be decimated by a legal battle over your last wishes from an improperly drafted or executed will.  After you pass, and problems surface, it is often too late to fix any issues that could potentially create and/or add to family drama and dysfunction.  And, typically, trust and estate litigation is exponentially more costly than doing it right the first time.

An estate plan prepared by an experienced, licensed, local Washington lawyer will protect your family and finances.  Attorneys at Torres & Haroldson, PLLC can prepare these essential legal documents for you and execute them properly with appropriate social distancing.  Call us at 425-458-3170 to set up a Zoom or phone conference to discuss your family's needs.

About the Author

Peter D. Haroldson

Peter's practice focuses on representing individuals in the areas of family law, guardianship, probate, estate planning, and general litigation.  Peter has represented clients all over the Puget Sound, including Pierce, King, Thurston, Kitsap, Snohomish, and Skagit Counties. Peter has represente...


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