Maybe you’ve heard that before investing in a professional service you should “get three estimates.” While often this is wise advice, it’s actually a bad idea when it comes to estate planning. This article explains why and how you can ensure you get the most efficient and affordable plan possible for your family without shopping for estate planning lawyers the way you may think.

Let’s begin with why “getting three estimates” for an estate plan doesn’t work to actually get you what you want.

First and foremost, this recommendation assumes that you should be shopping for an estate plan based on cost and that you understand exactly what you are shopping for and how to evaluate those estimates.
Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is the fastest path to leaving your family with an empty set of documents (maybe in a beautiful binder, but not worth the paper they are written on) that won’t actually work for your family when they need it.

Unfortunately, we see the negative effects of cheap estate planning when family members come to us during a time of grief with that fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security, full of out-of-date estate planning documents, and find themselves stuck in Court or conflict, even though that’s exactly what their loved one thought they had paid someone to handle for them.

Here are 5 reasons why shopping for the cheapest estate plan is likely to leave you with a plan that won’t work for your family … and will leave them with a big mess instead.

  1. The least expensive plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on once you’ve left the attorney’s office — your life changes, the law changes, and your assets change over time; your plan needs to keep up with those changes. And, the truth of the matter is that a lawyer can’t afford to provide anything more than documents that won’t get updated when you only pay a few hundred dollars for a plan. The business model simply doesn’t work.
  2. That’s why … cheap estate plans are often sold by financial professionals who want to get their hands on your money, not do right by your family — an attorney who has built a practice to actually serve your family in their best interests cannot make a living selling $399 plans; only insurance and financial professionals getting paid commissions to sell your families annuities and life insurance products they don’t need can make a living selling cheap documents. Buyer beware!
  3. Forms and documents won’t be there for your family when you can’t be — you want to leave your loved one’s a relationship with a trusted advisor who you have built a relationship with during your lifetime and who has met them and they already trust.
  4. You get what you pay for and it’s your family that pays the price — my colleague’s father-in-law died after paying $3,000 for an estate plan (not cheap) so that his family wouldn’t have to deal with the probate court or his ex-wife after his death, and yet that’s exactly what happened when he died — his family was in court and dealing with his ex-wife. Why? Because the law firm was a traditional forms and documents firm that put in place plans but didn’t make sure assets were owned in the right way or the plan stayed up to date over time. You might think that’s malpractice, but it’s not. It’s common practice and it leaves your family at risk if and when something happens to you!
  5. An estate plan isn’t a set it and forget it kind of thing, it needs to stay up to date with changes in your life, the law, and your assets.