Many Web sites offer customized, do-it-yourself wills and other estate planning documents. These computer-based services appear to offer a cost-effective and convenient alternative to visiting an estate planning or elder law attorney. But is online estate planning worth the convenience and initial savings? How do the documents created compare to those that a qualified attorney would produce?

To answer these questions, ElderLawAnswers asked two experienced estate planning and elder law attorneys to evaluate three leading online will preparation and estate planning programs: Nolo's Online Will, BuildaWill and LegalZoom. Their findings and ElderLawAnswers' conclusions are presented in a five-page White Paper that is available for free on ElderLawAnswers Web site.

To download the White Paper, available in PDF format, click here.

(If you do not have the free PDF reader installed on your computer, download it here.) 

Their conclusion:

"We conclude that while online estate planning could possibly work for people who have little or no property, small savings or investments, and a traditional family tree, the significant remainder of the population should not rest easy using one of these programs and should instead consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. In other words, in all but the most commonplace estate planning situations (and only an attorney can determine what is "commonplace"), do-it-yourself estate planning programs can be a risky, and often quite costly, substitute for in-person planning with an experienced estate planning attorney."

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