What is Estate Planning?

I hear this phrase a lot when meeting with parents for their initial appointment “I don’t know, what I don’t know”.

With sites like LegalZoom, BuildAWill, LegacyWriter, and more, the ability to create your Will has never been easier.

Or is it?

Think about the estate planning process being like a day rafting down a new stretch of river. Of course, you can read up about the river on your own. You can post your own questions online. You can even buy all of the equipment you think you will need.

But you are not traveling alone.  Each family member in your boat has different needs, different capabilities, different interests and as a result different questions need to be asked and additional equipment might need to be included.  I am an attorney, with a proven track record working with families such as your own and will know how to cater your personal experience to be as positive, informative and safe as possible. As your guide I will listen to your concerns, anticipate areas you may not have considered and put the correct gear in the boat helping to ensure that everyone has what they each need (whether adult or child) to feel comfortable, protected and educated.

An on-line Will template is not an attorney. The computer generated questionnaire cannot cannot give legal advice of any kind, cannot modify your answers in any way, cannot do any custom drafting that is responsive to your family’s particular set of facts, cannot think “outside the box”, cannot answer any questions and cannot suggest alternatives routes on the fly.

What on-line Will templates seem to want their customers to ignore, is the very simple fact that every family is special and unique. It is very important not to try acknowledge a family into a one-size-fits-all template document.

An attorney is crucial to the personalized and educated planning process. An estate planning attorney knows the questions to ask, and knows what to do with the answers and if a follow up question is necessary. A legal guide can read the hesitation in a parent’s voice or the sideways glance as they struggle to decide who to choose as guardian, trustee or personal representative.

The planning starts with completing a family questionnaire. But those answers are only a starting place to begin a more comprehensive back and forth discussion (not possible with a computer generated form). The in person initial appointment and follow up reviews are where you really get to the heart of what concerns parents have and how best to address them.


About Michelle-Shari Kruss, Attorney at Law

Portland Oregon Attorney. For almost fifteen years Michelle-Shari has been helping new parents address their very important estate-planning needs (Wills and Trusts for Minor Children). Michelle-Shari is a frequent guest lecturer at most of our Portland area hospitals, MOPS groups, Lake Oswego Mom(s), La Leche, religious organizations, professional and civic groups.
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