An interesting concept that has already been established abroad is the ability to purchase testamentary documents at malls. Capitalizing on the concept and holiday traffic, during this past festive season, a couple of attorneys in Florida set up a legal services kiosk offering various legal services including “basic estate planning.”
This set up involves dynamics that are both troubling and admirable. Estate planning is a complex practice, especially if you’re approaching it from the perspective where your main focus is individuals with relatively large estates who want to protect their families but also seek to minimize taxes. Plus, considering the newer comprehensive approach, which incorporates using other financial professionals, estate planning is a relatively complex practice. This approach requires a more than basic familiarity with a number of disciplines because this approach uses a “team” of advisors, with the attorney at the top of a pyramid, with a financial planner and an independent CPA at the base. Finally, needless to say but I’ll say it anyway – the tax laws are always changing. Still, it’s doubtful that individuals with large estates who are mindful about the fees they pay will consider a kiosk; that’s just not how they do business.
On the other hand, a demographic does exist that needs testamentary documents to just protect family members in the event of a death or incapacity. The “basic” will and power of attorney would likely be applicable in this situation. Yet, I am troubled by lawyers who don’t use these documents regularly and understand how they intersect with other law and regulations, especially powers of attorney and health care directives but offer them with a little counseling as a holiday special. If a gay or cohabiting couple approach these attorneys for wills or estate planning, there’s no 15 minute answer. Finally, the middle class is struggling as it is; it cannot afford planning mistakes with the small amount of resources it has managed to maintain during the financial crisis. I absolutely agree that trying to help the middle class is admirable, but this setup may cause more harm than good. If the motive is helping the middle class, they could offer documents and a free review without the 15-minute time constraint? But the question then becomes do the attorneys have the requisite experience to know what to look for during the review.