What is a Simple Estate Plan?

A simple estate plan is a bare-bones will or trust form with minimal terms, often leaving out terms that address an individual’s unique circumstances and concerns.

If there were a one-size-fits-all will template or trust form, the inventor would be a billionaire. Unfortunately, everybody is different. People have different family concerns, health concerns, financial circumstances, and beliefs and values.

Why Not Use Free Legal Forms?

There are two reasons to avoid free legal forms:

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. All legal forms are likely missing some terms that would be important to you but are not applicable to the population at large.

If you need a will or trust, you can easily find legal forms at your office supply store, software store, or online. Why pay for legal forms when you can get them for free? More importantly, why pay an attorney to draft a will or trust when you can get legal forms for free? For one reason, when you get a DIY template for a will or a trust, you often get a “bare-bones” document. Some might say, “you get what you pay for.”

The question to ask is, what is missing?

What is the Problem with Buying Trust Forms?

Many “bare-bones” trust documents ignore real-world issues faced by families today. They don’t reflect people’s intentions because people don’t understand the ramifications of the legal concepts. Many of these “fast food” documents lack important protections and current attorney best-practices, which change as laws change.

Many trust plans are bound to fail because people do not fund their trust properly, or they don’t fund it at all. For example, if you want to avoid probate, you need to put your real estate in a trust.

The estate plan may be completely inadequate for your needs—worst of all, you have no idea because, on the surface, your document appears nicely prepared. These forms are beautiful. They look organized. But all too often, families don’t face the consequences of poor planning until after someone passes, when it’s too late.

That is the problem with simple estate plans: You don’t know what protections are missing until it’s too late: someone has passed and the estate plan can no longer be fixed.

What Protections May Be Missing in a Trust Template?

A bare-bones living trust often has

  1. no asset protection for your beneficiaries
  2. no asset protection for your surviving spouse
  3. no estate tax protection for your beneficiaries
  4. no divorce protection for beneficiaries
  5. no lawsuit protection for your beneficiaries
  6. no second-marriage protection (when your widow-spouse remarries, will your assets go to the new spouse, the new spouse’s children, or your children?)
  7. no grandchildren protection (you can ensure some money is available for your grandchildren’s educational expenses)
  8. no protections to encourage healthy use of the money (e.g. preventing your money from being spent on drugs or gambling)
  9. no legacy provisions (you can pass along your story, your values, and your wisdom, often the greatest gift you can leave)

Of course, this is an incomplete list, and not every item may apply to you.

Learn more about the differences between a will and trust in our free educational seminars.