LEGAL MATTERS: Should You Use Do-It-Yourself Legal Forms?
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
As we always tell our clients – hope for the best, plan for the worse. It’s not a problem UNTIL it’s a problem but if and when it does become one you will have at least had an opportunity to address it.
Take do-it-yourself Wills, for example. It is anyone’s guess how many estates have been distributed in a manner inconsistent with the testator’s/signatory’s actual wishes. After all, by definition, when the Will is admitted to probate, the testator or signatory is no longer around to clarify anything about the Will.
When an attorney drafts a will on behalf of a client, not only is the attorney’s professional judgment and skill exercised in creating the document to meet the specific needs and expectations of the client, but the information the client provided to draft the will can provide valuable insight into the client’s wishes.
Another good example is business structures. Even if the legal form is completed and filled out accurately, there are numerous factors to be considered when it comes to corporations, partnerships, LLCs etc. The form of the business can have a direct impact on issues such as licensing, insurance, government filings, fees, taxes and qualifications for certain programs or benefits. Real legal problems can result from failure to understand these issues and a qualified attorney can assist you in uncovering those issues and addressing them.
Finally, read the disclaimers on the do-it-yourself legal forms. They specifically state they cannot provide legal advice, communications are not subject to attorney client privilege, they cannot provide explanations, opinions or recommendations about legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies. At best they can refer you to a lawyer
It may sound self-serving for a lawyer to caution against the use of commercially pre-printed, do-it-yourself legal forms. That would only be true if such forms always met the needs and expectations of the consumer. Unfortunately, a number of legal document purchasers have discovered that the document did not meet their needs after a dispute or problem arose and then it was too late.
The foregoing is offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.
Susan G. Pegden is a litigation associate with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins in Providence. She is admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Rhode Island Association of Justice (RIAJ) and a member of the Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association.
Sean P. Feeney is a partner with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins. He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island, Illinois and Wisconsin. Mr. Feeney is a former special counsel to the City of Providence, military prosecutor with the United States Marine Corps and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California.
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