Legal Law

Pre-Prepared Legal Documents – Why "Canned" Documents can get you canned

Watching the commercials on television late at night can be a great education for the estate planning attorney. It seems every channel has a pre-made or “canned” mailer of legal documents to “save you the cost of hiring a high-priced lawyer”: “Save thousands of dollars with our easy-to-fill form.” (insert type of document: wills, trusts, powers of attorney, deeds, etc.)!” “They’re easy to use!” “Avoid paying high prices for something you can do at home!” There are always people smiling and “testimonials” from “customers” who say the forms came with step-by-step instructions and were very easy to use.

To think that planning, creating and executing the most important documents in any individual’s life could be so simple!

If only it were so.

This is a classic case of “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” American capitalism is a wonderful thing — and as a small business owner I certainly appreciate the freedom Americans have to earn a living — but it’s not so wonderful if it hurts the consumer who spends their hard-earned money on computer programs or training. documents that ultimately won’t do the job.

I have had several clients come to me with pre-prepared documents that were completely invalid, did not do what they were supposed to do, or required a lot of legal work afterwards to fix the mess they got the client into. Some were wills, some were trusts, some were corporate documents, and some were contracts. In each case, the customer ended up paying more, sometimes much more – for me to clean up the mess.

Lawyers don’t spend four years in college and another three years in law school to be able to fill out canned forms from an online website or office supply store. Most legal documents, especially those that people need for their daily lives, require precision and formality to be legally valid. And they must carefully follow the laws of the state in which they will be used. Wills must contain very specific language and be executed with extreme precision to be recognized by the courts. One false step and a will is invalid. This is particularly important because you cannot redo a will after you have passed away. And that’s not what you want for your heirs.

The same goes for writes, which must also succeed or they are invalid. Imagine thinking that you’ve transferred, or worse yet, He received — property, only to discover that the document isn’t worth the paper it’s written on? Contracts are another type of document that people feel they can write themselves or use “canned” documents without knowing the requirements of the particular area of ​​law or the law of that state. I can’t tell you how many times one of my client’s red-faced client’s previous penny nonsense led to long and expensive litigation.

Is it really worth saving between $750.00 and $1,500.00, depending on the type of document, to have legal documents that may not be valid? While it can be tempting to use pre-prepared legal documents to save a bit, using them is a classic case of being “unintelligent and dumb.” I always tell my clients, “Pay me now or pay me later. Paying me now will cost you less than paying me later to clean up the mess.”

Only a member of your state’s Bar Association is licensed and competent to prepare these important life documents for you. Seek the right advice and be prepared to pay a reasonable price now for expert advice and labor to avoid a costly problem down the road.

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