Estate Planning Lessons from Rachael Ray

I’d love to be able to tell you that I make it home in time to fix a delicious and nutritious home-cooked meal every weeknight. But, as I’m sure you know, until someone comes along to invent the 28-hour day, it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Fortunately, my husband is at least semi-skilled with a spatula and measuring cup.

Inspiration from the Food Network

Still, I do love the challenge of a new, never-been-tried recipe. Usually it’s something that friends or family have recommended or I’ve managed to catch a few minutes of on Food Network. Personally, I’m partial to Bobby Flay and Alton BrownRachael Ray‘s great when I don’t have a lot of time. Who’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Estate Planning with an accent on Planning

What I love about creating a new dish is that it is an entire experience. First I have to go to the market to get a bunch of exotic ingredients that I usually don’t have around the house (have you been to the Wegman’s in Northboro yet? Fun!). Then, once back in the kitchen, comes the prep where — hopefully — I get to employ some of the many kitchen gadgets that have gathered a bit too much dust. Finally, the cooking, where, if I’ve followed the recipe correctly, it all comes together in one exciting and delicious meal that will make everyone forget the stresses of the day.

Now, I don’t often talk about myself or my home life on my blog because I want this space to be about you and the challenges you face planning for your future. However, as I see more and more television advertisements for do-it-yourself legal document websites like LegalZoom, I worry that people are taking terrible risks with their estate planning and won’t be adequately protected for the future.

Cookie cutter solutions fail to plan

The problem with DIY legal doc services is that they essentially only give you one half of a recipe. LegalZoom can give you a list of documents you need and then prompt you to fill them out. Easy! But, what do you do then? You have a bunch of “critical” documents that have no relation to each other because they were coughed out by machines that don’t know you. You’ve just been told to cut up carrots, onions, and celery, but with no instruction on how to cook them in a pot of water to make a soup stock. Yes, those are the individual parts of a soup stock, but, you want to be able bring them all together, and use that stock to make one great dish.

All your estate planning ingredients must work together

This is why the advice of a legal professional is so, so important when planning an estate or trust. You will get both sides of the recipe: the ingredient list AND the instructions on how to turn all of those documents into a comprehensive plan — focused on a singular goal — to ensure that you and your family’s financial and medical needs are always met. All of the documents-and the components of those documents-necessary like HIPAA releases, declarations of homestead, will and trust provisions, beneficiary designations, and irrevocable trusts, etc., won’t be of any value to you unless you prepare them all together into a cohesive plan. They’re all essential pieces of the estate planning recipe but LegalZoom and the like can’t mix them together properly without getting to know you.

Don’t get caught with half a recipe, a bunch of individual ingredients, and nowhere to put them. Contact Worcester-area estate-planning and elder law attorney Kristina Vickstrom to ensure that your estate plan is legally sound and fully-baked.

Rachael Ray image courtesy of lord mariser and used under Creative Commons license 


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