Years ago, people were stuck with lawyers when drafting a will or other common legal documents as they really had no alternative. In the internet era, on the other hand, you can find a form for just about anything. I’ve had many people bring in forms randomly found on the internet or paid for through some remote legal services company. They often just want to confirm they have it right or that the form will hold up. That impulse partly proves the point of this article.
When you hire a local attorney, the attorney’s job is not to just pull the correct form and help you fill it out. An attorney should compare and contrast that form or the idea you have with all other options and make sure you are picking the right path. With most choices, it’s not entirely obvious what path to pick as there are pros and cons to every option. What might work great for tax purposes but be a potential pitfall for nursing home planning or vice versa.
Another advantage of working with a local attorney is future follow up. If I help draft a will, for example, someone may challenge that will after your death and I would be a witness in your behalf to defend that you were competent and not coerced when the will was executed. The chances of a will holding up to a court challenge is more about context, procedure and witnesses and less about what form you used or found on the internet.
If I draft a deed, as another example, I don’t just fill complete the deed per the instructions of a client. Anyone can find a deed form online. I, however, will do a quick title search and make sure that we have the right legal description, the grantor has good title and no easement issues or other problems need to be addressed. It’s very common that I get involved years later when someone drafted and recorded their own deed. After many years, it may be expensive to correct the mistake as a necessary party to that deed may now be deceased or parties that need to cooperate have moved away.
I guess the phrase “penny wise pound foolish” applies here. Getting something done correctly on the front end often leads to avoiding much larger costs in the future.
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