In the electronic world we now live in, almost anything can be located with the click of a few buttons on the average laptop. Even legal forms and documents are now easy to find online. Understandably, this makes it very tempting to simply download the legal document you need, fill in the blanks, and be done with it, thereby avoiding the time and money it takes to have an attorney prepare the document. If you are planning on creating a trust in the near future, you may be tempted to go this route; however, you should know that the time and money you save now by using a form you find on the internet will likely cost you and/or your loved ones, considerably more time and money down the road.
Though a Last Will and Testament remains the foundation of most estate plans, trust agreements have become a very common addition to the average person’s estate plan. One reason for this is the flexibility a trust agreement offers – a trust can be used to help achieve almost any estate planning goal. Moreover, trusts have evolved over the last several decades to the point where there is a specialized trust for a considerable number of those estate planning goals and objectives. The wide variety of trust agreements available, coupled with the fact that the Maker of a trust creates the trust terms, works as the proverbial “double edged sword.” It makes a trust agreement an extremely attractive option for most estate plans; however, it also makes trying to create a trust agreement using a form you found online a particularly risky endeavor for many reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Lack of guidance – remember all of those different types of trusts mentioned above? Well, you need to the best you can hope to find is a simple questionnaire that purports to result in telling you what type of trust agreement you need. Realistically, however, you may need an entirely different type of trust agreement for your purposes.
- Not state specific – state law governs most aspects of wills, trusts, and estates. Many of the legal forms and documents, including trust agreements, found online are not state specific. As a result, you could end up with a trust agreement that violates a state law in your state or that is rendered invalid because it fails to comply with an applicable law/rule.
- Cannot give legal advice. Even if you have been part of creating a trust agreement before, you are bound to have questions during the creation of this trust agreement. You cannot ask a website a question and even if they have a forum or the ability to send in questions, only a licensed attorney can give you legal advice. Not being able to get an answer to your question will be frustrating; however, getting the wrong answer from someone who is not licensed to answer you is worse.
- Out of date – laws relating to wills, trusts, and estates are subject to change – and do often change – seemingly overnight. Forms found online rarely keep up with those changes. Therefore, there is a very good chance that the trust agreement you found online does not reflect the current state of the law.
- Tax implications. For a trust to be successful, the Maker of the trust must understand all of the possible tax implications of creating the trust. Again, there is no one available to explain those to you.
- Your comprehensive estate plan. A trust agreement should fit into your comprehensive trust agreement and help fulfill estate planning goals and objectives. Adding any stand-alone document to your existing estate plan can be risky as there is no way to know how the new document will impact your overall plan.
The list of things that could go wrong when you use a trust agreement found online is virtually limitless. Given the fact that the trust agreement you create is likely intended to serve an important purpose in your estate plan it would seem clear that you don’t want to take risks during the creation of the agreement. Using an online trust agreement is definitely a risk. Instead of taking that risk, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.
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