Ready-Made (DIY) Estate Planning products are not new and there are many options in the market to quickly, easily, and cheaply get your estate plan together. It can be tempting to find the cheapest source out there and just get it done, but beware that many of these programs will give you nothing more than a false sense of security and leave your family dealing with the mess. As with estate planning attorneys, all estate planning software is not created equal. As Probate attorneys, we can attest to the enormous number of DIY plans that go awry and leave family in worse shape than no plan at all.
That said, the attorneys at Jenkins & Jenkins, Estate Planning Attorneys do believe there is a place for ready-made estate planning for those with simple needs or wishes. That’s why we’ve created our very own document automation software, Estate Lock, to make sure there is a product out there that will actually work for families when the time comes, while staying reasonably priced to keep estate planning accessible for all.
Our ready-made plans are the route we recommend if you prefer to take a DIY approach to get a plan in place. We are the attorneys behind the software program and educational components, and we offer attorney support options through the software as well. That support can range from deed services to transfer property into your trust, to a limited scope relationship to review your plan, all the way up to a full attorney-client relationship with review, edits, and completion of your plan with our law firm.
Estate Lock is unique as it was built by practicing estate planning attorneys, has ongoing educational support from practicing estate planning attorneys, and has the ability to convert your ready-made plan to an attorney assisted plan with a named estate planning law firm (us!). While many other ready-made products out there were “built by attorneys”, you’ll never know the names of those attorneys or whether or not they actually know the field of estate planning well. With Estate Lock, if you get lost along the way or need more than software can provide, you’ll have the direct support from a premier Estate Planning Law firm with a great reputation, Jenkins & Jenkins, Estate Planning Attorneys.
Ready-Made Estate Planning is best suited for those who have 1) simple estates, 2) simple wishes, and 3) are capable of utilizing provided resources to understand their plan.
- Simple Estates: Under current estate tax laws, this is actually pretty far reaching. Single individuals with estates valued under $12 million and married couples with estates valued under $24 million are candidates for ready-made planning. These numbers are set to reduce to approximately $6-7 million for single people or $12-14 million in 2026, depending on the political scene leading up to that date, but even at those reduced numbers most people are included from a net worth perspective. So long as you don’t have complex holdings, you won’t need a whole lot of customization in your plan. Houses, rentals, financial accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts, business interests, personal property, etc. can all be planned around appropriately using the Estate Lock software.
- Simple Wishes: This, too, is probably further reaching than you may think. Want to leave specific items to specific people; want to leave everything that’s left to specific people in equal or unequal percentages; want to nominate a pet guardian; want to hold onto an inheritance for children or grandchildren until a set age; want to take care of grandchildren in case a child happens to predecease you; want to donate to charity if everyone else named is no longer around; want to protect a child’s inheritance from a future divorce? All of these things are possible using the right software, like Estate Lock. While software won’t allow you to customize distributions plans on every level to the extreme (only hand drafted plans can), most people’s wishes will be accounted for in a good, attorney supported software.
- Utilizing Provided Resources: In most cases this will actually be the determining factor. Can you take pre-recorded videos and supportive material and apply it to your situation? As an example, can you watch a video that details what to do with your financial accounts (transfer them into the trust name or assign the trust as a beneficiary), then use your provided documents to actually make that happen. Many will have no issues with this at all with the right supportive program, but if you’re someone who needs a bit more guidance, you may be better served with a full service attorney client relationship in a traditional planning manner. Estate Lock does offer a hybrid approach as well if this is your concern – so long as your estate and wishes are simple the software can draft your plan, and with the Attorney assistance options you can have dedicated estate planning attorneys assist you across the finish line.
- Complex Assets: Those who have assets currently valued over the estate tax exemption amount, or assets which are likely to be, should not utilize ready-made estate planning alone. You’re simply leaving too much on the table and have significant assets to plan around. Similarly, those with complex business holdings should likely not use ready-made planning and would be better suited having competent estate planning, business, and tax professionals putting together a cohesive plan.
- Complex Wishes: If you’re someone who wants to really exert specific control in how everyone will inherit from your estate (beyond the typical age restriction for inheritance type setup), ready-made planning may not be for you. The more complex your wishes are, the more likely it is for something to go wrong or be misinterpreted. For these complex distribution plans, you really need an attorney talking you through each step, pointing out what you may be missing, and then collectively working through your plan. Similarly, if you’re planning around other complex issues like Special Needs, direct attorney support is in your best interest.
- Known Disputes: If you have family who is already counting pennies and arguing about your stuff while you’re alive, you may want to have an attorney represent you in creating your plan. It’s not to say you cannot use a ready-made service, especially one with added attorney support options like Estate Lock, but it would be in your best interest to have an estate planning attorney who can articulate your wishes and reasoning to help make sure your plan is upheld with the least amount of drama. Similarly, if you are going to outright disinherit a child, you’re best suited doing this with legal counsel instead of software in most cases.
- Trouble Following Through: One of the most common reasons a DIY estate plan fails and must be taken to Probate Court is a lack of follow through. This can be because the product does not have adequate support or guidance around it (the usual case), or because an individual simply doesn’t have the follow through ability after signing documents. Once you sign your trust, you still must take steps to fund your trust for it to work. If you’re someone who may have trouble actually following through on this step, even with good guidance, you may be best served having an attorney assist you in every step of your planning.
Absolutely! We’ve designed the Estate Lock software to be the most user friendly, effective, and supportive estate planning software out there, but if you get started on the process and need additional help we’re here for you. One of the nicest things about our ready-made plans is you always have the option for direct assistance from Jenkins & Jenkins, Estate Planning Attorneys. If you start a ready-made plan and get overwhelmed, simply upgrade to an attorney review plan and only pay the difference. If you start a ready-made plan and find that your wishes are more complicated than the software will allow, or that you really would prefer to work through everything with an attorney, you can always upgrade to a full-service plan with our firm as well without losing any of your initial investment. Jenkins & Jenkins, Estate Planning Attorneys has fully virtual capabilities, so we can assist you anywhere in the State of California and you never have to leave the comfort of your home!
To get started on your ready-made plan, just head over to the Estate Planning Questionnaire.
You can always contact us directly if you’re unsure what to do or whether a software is the right fit for you. Jenkins & Jenkins, Estate Planning Attorneys can provide you with all the tools and resources to get started, and with our extensive estate planning experience throughout California, we can quickly determine what may be the best fit for you. Get your estate plan done online today, or, if you’d prefer a more traditional approach, schedule an appointment with us and we can help you plan your estate immediately.