In the days of mass information and quick results, it is often hard to navigate the numerous choices we are given every single day. How do you make the best choices for yourself and your loved ones? Research? Referrals? Gut instinct? These all are great resources. However, in the days of social media and the world-wide web, we are constantly being influenced by the ads, commercials, and social influencers we see daily. It can be tempting at times to take what seems to be a quick and easy route. In those moments of temptation, it is important to keep in mind the tried and true lesson, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The internet has brought a wealth of information and awareness. It is great for finding a dinner recipe, connecting with old friends, or most importantly, for keeping ourselves informed. Over the past few years however, there has been a rapid growth in online “legal document services.” These websites often claim to provide a comparable result to the work an attorney provides, and this is a dangerous misconception.
To begin, these types of websites openly state their limitations and frankly, their inadequacies in their terms and conditions. Most “legal document service” websites contain the following similar disclaimer language: (i) That they are not a law firm and the legal document service is not attorney advice, nor is it substitution for attorney advice and (ii) They cannot provide advice or recommendations nor can they inform you on the consequences of the document you ultimately created. Additionally, many of these types of websites state that they are simply providing the legal forms and that you, the consumer, are responsible for the use and result of these forms. In other words, the website is unable to provide you advice and the result is your responsibility. This leaves the consumer with limited or no recourse for bad documents.
The process with “legal drafting” websites starts with filling out a short questionnaire. From your answers on this short questionnaire the website produces a very impactful document. When you think of your family, your loved ones, your relationships, can they all be described as “A” or “B”? As an example, think of your children, do you want to disinherit them or not? Not a simple question nor is the answer simple for many. Maybe you want them to inherit but only if certain requirements are met. When filling out a questionnaire with drop down selections, these selections in many cases will not accurately describe the entirety of your personal situation. This is where the services of an attorney are inestimably valuable. A qualified attorney will provide you with documents that work for you and your personal relationships.
A qualified attorney with the right firm will listen to your personal situation and then use their years of education and experience to advise you on what is best for your life and your relationships. The attorney will not produce a cookie cutter, document, but rather a plan that is customized and drafted just for you and your loved ones. This is a service that is irreplaceable. When a person utilizes these “legal drafting” websites they are limited in the ultimate product they will receive and in some cases are left with a document that is unenforceable or simply wrong.
Unfortunately, the unenforceability or the incorrectness of these documents often does not become apparent until it is too late. In numerous cases it is not until someone has become incapacitated or passes away that the errors in the documents become apparent. In many situations these messes are costlier to fix rather than just doing it right from the beginning. In more unfortunate situations, the mess cannot be cleaned up at all, and your loved ones are affected by the results.
It is important when doing estate planning that you invest in not only your wishes but also what is best for your loved ones. Plan for your future in all stages of life as well as thereafter in the best way possible. Utilizing qualified and trustworthy attorneys can help you plan for you and your loved one’s future.