Estate Planning – Fast and Distant or Slow and Local?

Estate Planning

I’m a member of WealthCounsel, LLC, a national organization of estate planning attorneys.  Lately there has been a lot of discussion on the list serve about how the internet is affecting estate planning and what the future holds for the profession and the public.

It occurred to me this morning that one could draw a parallel between the evolution of the fast food industry starting several decades ago and what has been happening in estate planning over the last 10 years or so.
Before the 1950′s, there was little in the way of fast food joints and instant and frozen foods.  Food then was “slow,” prepared in the home, from scratch, and local foods were most commonly used.  Then came McDonald’s, advances in food processing technology, transportation and the like, and the pace of life sped up.  The U.S. started shipping in food from all over the world  Fast, “distant” food was born.
Now, many years later, there is a backlash against fast food because it is making us sick, overweight, and harms the environment.  There’s a movement to “slow”, local food.  Many restaurants here in Chapel Hill now prominently feature such items on their menus.  Local, fresh food helps support the local economy, tastes better, is often more healthful, and has less environmental impact.  I think it’s great – so what if it’s old-fashioned?
Turning to estate planning, long ago anyone who wanted something other than a handwritten will had to sit down with a lawyer, discuss the terms, and then return a couple of weeks later to sign the will.  Slow and local.  This process worked fine, but the world is not static. Along came the internet and LegalZoom.  Someone could prepare their will in their underwear in front of their computer at home on Sunday night.  A completely different type of “legal” services  – fast and distant.  This is great for some people, because just like with fast food, there will always be those who value convenience and price over what’s actually best for themselves and their families in the long run.
There’s no question that the internet will forever change the delivery of legal services.  But, just like with the current slow food movement, that doesn’t mean that going to the lawyer’s office and sitting down for a talk will become a thing of the past.  I think there will always be some who prefer the benefits of slow and local over fast and distant.
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