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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brits turn to the net for estate planning

Where do you get your estate planning information and advice? The fact that you're reading this blog puts you in the group that turns, at least in part, to the internet. According to the attached article, more people in Britain use the internet to research and plan their estates than use any other source other than lawyers. I don't know of any statistics about Canadian users but wouldn't be surprised to see similar numbers.

The internet can be a fantastic source of information, particularly if you are short of time or work odd hours or are not very mobile, because the internet is available at all hours. There are some drawbacks though.

The first drawback is the quality of the source. Let's face it, anyone can put up a webpage and call themselves anything they want. Any time you use an internet source you should evaluate the source as fully as you can. For example, there is one blog that I checked out a few times because the topics interested me, but the posts themselves appeared to be written by a child. One thing I noticed is that they referred to "anointing" a trustee rather than "appointing" one. Other posts had similar mistakes and they did not appear to be translation errors. It's no big deal if a client use the wrong word now and again, but a person putting himself or herself forward as an expert in something should know what the words mean.

The second drawback is the applicability of the information. Are the contents of the webpage applicable to you specifically? For example, Canada, the US and the UK have very different tax systems, so it is a mistake to rely on information from a source outside of your geographical area.

A third drawback is understanding how the information impacts you. There are some webpages and blogs I've read that are so technical and intimidating, they make my eyes glaze over. It's easy to misunderstand whether something applies to you if it's full of legalese or industry jargon.

Even though I am one of the people who puts information out there on the web for people to use, I still recommend that people see a lawyer for estate planning unless their estate is absolutely straightforward. This means that you should talk to a lawyer about your planning if you have children, a handicapped family member, a business, a blended family, land in a foreign jurisdiction, jointly owned property with anyone, or dual citizenship. If you want to leave money to a minor, a handicapped person or a charity, or you are considering any kind of trust, you should speak to a lawyer. If you are doing anything unusual such as treating your children differently or cutting someone out of the will, you should speak to a lawyer. I recommend this so that you will end up with a document that will carry out your wishes.

I always hope that the people who read my blog (and thanks to each and every one of you for coming back so many times!) will use it as a source of ideas, and a way of deepening the knowledge they have found elsewhere.

Click on the link below to read the article.

Brits turn to the net for estate planning Easier

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