Making A Will With Quicken WillMaker Is Unauthorized Practice Of Law?

from the uh-oh dept

Laws against "unauthorized practice of law" are highly problematic, and usually designed more to artificially inflate what lawyers can charge, rather than to actually protect the public. Too often, perfectly innocent suggestions are later construed as "unauthorized practice of law," such as by paralegals who used to do exactly the same thing working for lawyers or by an accountant helping to fill out incorporation forms. A new case concerning such laws apparently found that an insurance agent who helped a client make her will using either Quicken WillMaker or Quicken Family Lawyer was found to be guilty of unauthorized practice of law for helping her draw up a will by filling in the blanks in the software based on what the woman told him. That certainly raises questions about anyone using one of those programs (or other legal software) to helps anyone else complete any kind of legal document. While the laws are designed to protect people, it certainly seems like it can go too far in cases like this one.


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    Mit, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 3:57am

    What a surprise, the lawyers get more money while the innocent get screwed over yet again.

     

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    Angry Rivethead, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 4:04am

    Heh.

    The legal system seems to operate much like the RIAA/MPAA. "The law is to protect people" sounds just like "The law is to protect the artist" and probably doesn't protect anyone besides the the lawyers' business. Even simple claims require you to pay for a representitive. This is simply the legal industry pidgeonholing us into paying for a service that should be cut and dried. How f'n hard is it to say "X of my crap goes here and Y of my crap goes there when I die" Does anyone really need any help (provided they can write)? NO! Should they even need software? Not really.

    Of course in this case, it was propagated by an insurance agent, whos motives weren't the purest anyway and was trying to funnel money to either themselves or his agency.

     

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      RevMike, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 5:47am

      Re: Heh.

      How f'n hard is it to say "X of my crap goes here and Y of my crap goes there when I die" Does anyone really need any help (provided they can write)? NO! Should they even need software? Not really.

      You might have a point in candy and gumdrop land. The simple truth is that the law is more complex than that, and anyone that tries to draft these documents without appropriate advice is a fool.

      For instance, say you have two children, John and Jane. For whatever reason, you want to leave everything to Jane. So you write "I leave everything to Jane."

      You've just created a will that can be readily contested. Perhaps it will take years to settle, and cost lord only knows how many thousands of dollars in legal fees. A simple two hundred dollar visit to an attorney, however, and instead you would have the phrase "In thinking of John, I leave everything to Jane." Now Jane doesn't need to spend a lot on legal fees, and gets the estate much sooner.

      Trying to skimp on legal fees is frequently being penny wise and dollar foolish. A few hundred dollars in drafting a will, a contract, etc. can save tens of thousands down the road.

       

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      Grey, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 11:21am

      Re: Heh.

      Of course in this case, it was propagated by an insurance agent, whos motives weren't the purest anyway and was trying to funnel money to either themselves or his agency.

      Oh, Bullshit! She asked someone outside her family to help her draw up the will, and it sounds like she made him Executor of her estate, whom many states and provinces allow a small(ish) honorarium to be paid to the person for thier time and trouble.

      Have you ever executed an estate? If the person has any signifigant assets, (over about $100k), it's a huge pain in the ass, even if everything goes according to plan. If you've got greedy people involved (IE: Grandnieces) who want to argue and drag the thing on thru probate forever, there's court fees, and lost time from work to go argue, and so on.

      I know that my will allows the Executrix to be paid for out-of-pocket expenses, and $22 an hour for any reasonable and provable travel and other (lost wage, etc) expenses incurred in the discharge of my estate, and from my experience having executed a couple of estates, many people do that as a matter of courtesy, because one of them took literally weeks in court to settle, and I would have had to bail on it, not being able to afford the time off from work.

       

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    Obscure Coward, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 4:18am

    Lawyers

    The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. --Shakespeare's Henry VI

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2007 @ 4:38pm

      Re: Lawyers

      You are all retarded. Shakespeare said...if you want anarchy, kill all the lawyers.

       

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      Shannon, Jul 18th, 2007 @ 7:35pm

      Re: Lawyers

      Pray tell dearest Obscure Coward, who was it sayeth "the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." It was an anarchist and to achieve anarchy, the first thing to do is kill all the lawyers.

      As far as lawyers trying to protect their business, well, yes, they probably are. However, as one who has witnessed big legal messes when someone (even an attorney) drafts a poorly written will, yes, an attorney is a necessity to draft a will. And, yes, it is not that easy to say "X of my crap goes here and Y of my crap goes there." If you don't believe me, grab a Wills and Estate textbook. I work with laws all the time and legislators who think they are saying something that is perfectly clear are blinded by the intent they have in writing the provision. The same can be said for non-professionals drafting wills. They think what they said is clear, but, unfortunately, when it is time to probate the will, they are not around to tell the court what they intended.

      Like I said to a friend of mine who used a will software kit: How do you know the will does what you think it does? Have you had an attorney review it? Well, until you do, you can just sit and wonder.

      Heck, wills are usually loss leaders that attorneys draft for much less than their hourly rate and then pray that when the person dies that they did not make an iota of a mistake. Each will an attorney drafts is a little ticking time bomb of malpractice and the attorney does not know if any of the bombs will blow them up until each person dies.

      Sorry, but those are the cold hard facts...and not spoken by someone who makes their living off drafting wills.

       

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        Rob, Sep 5th, 2008 @ 12:04pm

        Re: Re: Lawyers

        I can see your point, which has some validity, but as someone who spent a year in law school I have seen first hand how attorneys make the big bucks; it not because of their superior intellect. There are tons of software out there made specifically for attorneys; I know about them because I checked them out fot a course I was taking. Your statement that WILLS are a loss leader is not totally true. Many attorneys do the same thing you and I would do if we bought that same program; plug in the info, press a button, and presto, there is the will are nicely typed out. 15 minutes per will, probably entered by the paralegal, and 2, 3, 5 hundred bucks a pop yields pretty good money.

        There are situations, however, that requires a "wills and estates" attorney such as for extremely wealthy people who have very complex estates and equally complex distributions. These folks won't be buying any software, they have the bucks to pay the hefty fees of an attorney.

         

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    C$, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 4:34am

    Better safe than sorry...

    The government knows better than I do about who I should consult in drawing my will. I also question your suggestion that I not use law software to write a will... are you making legal advice??? Because I doubt that you are authorized to do so.

     

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    Matthew, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 4:59am

    Greed

    The whole point behind TFA is the kids are suing because they don't like how their mother divided up her crap. Because of their disrespect of the deceased and each other, they are saying this guy filling out the computer program altered the outcome of their winnings.

    Also FTA: The purpose of prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law is to protect the public from incompetence in the preparation of legal documents and prevent harm resulting from inaccurate legal advice. ("The amateur at law is as dangerous to the community as an amateur surgeon....")
    That seems like a rather arrogant statement, but I'm sure some nutcase made it necessary. But my thing is this: I don't need a doctor to dress a small wound. I am not forced to go to the hospital if I cut my finger and apply a bandaid. So too is this brainless piece of software filled in under the guidance of the woman who was willing out her stuff.

    Many lawyers may be jerks, but they're not the driving force behind this crap this time.

     

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      haywood, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 5:46am

      Re: Greed

      Whatever the founders of this country intended, the laws of today are to protect businesses from the public. Regardless of your skill level, you can't legally do a lot of things, things like; fixing your own air conditioner. It is just a matter of time till you can't repair your own computer with out a license. It is all about the Benjamin's. The alleged intent of most laws is public safety, but when it comes down to it is is about protecting an industry.

       

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        Rob, Sep 5th, 2008 @ 11:53am

        Re: Re: Greed

        I agree. Which makes me wonder, do we really have a free market economy? Seems to me it is all an illusion. The whole UPL thing is a joke. It is hard to go against the Law Fraternity.

         

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      exitstageleft, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 7:03am

      Re: Greed

      I concur.

       

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      Suzerain, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 7:16am

      Re: Greed

      No, you do not need a lawyer to do small stuff, but there are so many intricacies involved in a will that you would be an idiot to not go to an attorney.

      The issue is not the fact that the person themselves wrote up the will, not a problem, but that SOMEONE ELSE helped them fill it out. That person gave legal advice without a license. That is a serious problem.

      Did the person explain the legal issues involved in making certain dispositions, making fiduciary appointments, requiring/not requiring a fiduciary to have to post a bond, having the fiduciary serve with/without court supervision, the tax effects of a disposition, why to include a residuary clause, including a no contest clause to prevent crap like this from happening, making a simultaneous gift to the children at the same time to prevent a will contest, or even explain how useful it is to have a formalized will execution ceremony to prevent claims of incapacity?

      No. probably because the person has no training in the law and has no idea about any of these. The problem with this software, is they cannot explain these issues to people either. There are serious questions regarding whether the software itself is unauthorized practice of law by the corporation who wrote it as well.

      I have first hand experience with a person who used one of these programs to write a will and save some money. Instead, he spent thousands of dollars to pay an attorney to fix the problems his cheapness created. Penny wise, pound foolish.

       

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    Matthew, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 5:01am

    Edit

    So too is this brainless piece of software filled in under the guidance of the woman who was willing out her stuff a simple no_lawyer_required procedure.*

     

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    Sanguine Dream, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 5:48am

    So what...

    Does it matter? When the woman made out her will she had to agree to it. That means means she had to review it and agree to it before making it final and absolute. This just sounds like a case of some spoiled brats that wanted more moeny.

     

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    anonymous Bum, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 5:55am

    Recently...

    I went to my attorney to write up a will. I spent an hour going over a worksheet that he had that made writing the will easier. Two weeks later I get a draft in the mail to approve and make amendments. I am still amending the first draft. I will send it back to him to edit and then we will meet again to discuss changes. I will then make more changes to it.

    Wills can be very complex instruments. They should not be done without legal advice. I would presume there are probably some conflicts of interest being an insurance agent as well.

     

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    Lawyer's perspective, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 5:55am

    What you all don't realize

    Do not complain about the cost of an attorney to prepare a will or other simple documents. First, it is not the unauthorized practice of law to use the software or other forms to prepare a will yourself. It is unauthorized to assist another in the preparation because you may exert (even unconsciously) undue influence on the testator (the person writing the will). Also, many forms do not provide sufficient information on the necessary steps to make a valid will in different states. A lay person may not know enough to tell you that your will won't be valid.

    Finally, in most cases a person will require only a simple will and an attorney will charge a relatively small amount for the preparation of this document. Particularly if you consider the costs that can balloon out of control if beneficiaries begin to challenge the will.

     

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      non-attorney, Jan 26th, 2007 @ 4:18pm

      Re: What you all don't realize

      LET ME GUESS. you are an attorney....right. i suppose the attorney would never influance the testator perhaps even confuse them? that way you get them to come back have pay more to clean it up. oh, and perhaps some one will contest the will and there you are again...getting paid! we all have motives in this world so don't tell us how noble you are. we know what you want....consciously.

       

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        Suzerain, Jan 29th, 2007 @ 12:50pm

        Re: Re: What you all don't realize

        Umm, if an attorney did that, they would lose their license and, therefore their ability to screw you over. FYI, there are malpractice claims against attorneys who make drafting errors.

        Very clearly, you are a nonattorney and have no idea what you are talking about.

         

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    anonymous Bum, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 6:00am

    Recently...

    I went to my attorney to write up a will. I spent an hour going over a worksheet that he had that made writing the will easier. Two weeks later I get a draft in the mail to approve and make amendments. I am still amending the first draft. I will send it back to him to edit and then we will meet again to discuss changes. I will then make more changes to it.

    Wills can be very complex instruments. They should not be done without legal advice. I would presume there are probably some conflicts of interest being an insurance agent as well.

     

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    comboman, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 6:09am

    Slightly misleading title

    The issue (in the cited case) is not whether making your own will with Quicken software is Unauthorized Practice of Law (it isn't, and the court upheld the will in this case as valid). The issue is whether someone who is not a lawyer and uses Quicken to make a will for someone else and charges them for the service is engaging in Unauthorized Practice of Law (sounds to me like they are, but then IANAL).

     

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      Liberty Dave, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 6:49am

      Re: Slightly misleading title

      The issue is whether someone who is not a lawyer and uses Quicken to make a will for someone else and charges them for the service is engaging in Unauthorized Practice of Law (sounds to me like they are, but then IANAL).

      I think you're right, that the issue is actually charging for providing some sort of legal service(s) and charging for that service.

      But so what if someone other than a lawyer offers you legal services and charges you for them? They're not forcing you to take the legal services. They tell you what services they will provide, and what the cost is. You can either decide to accept that or not. If you don't want "legal" advice from an insurance agent, then you don't have to take it, you can instead go to a lawyer and get what you think you need from them.

       

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        Mike M., Jan 25th, 2007 @ 9:02am

        Re: Re: Slightly misleading title

        But so what if someone other than a lawyer offers you legal services and charges you for them? They're not forcing you to take the legal services. They tell you what services they will provide, and what the cost is. You can either decide to accept that or not. The "so what" is that, as a consumer, you are not readily able to distinguish between someone who is competent and who is not competent to provide the services sought. One of the reasons for requiring a license to practice law is that the public gets some level of assurance that the person providing legal services has had some minimum level of education and continues to maintain that education annually. By your reasoning, the guy down at the Jiffy Lube should be able to diagnose and treat lung cancer.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 11:42am

          Re: Re: Re: Slightly misleading title

          "By your reasoning, the guy down at the Jiffy Lube should be able to diagnose and treat lung cancer."

          Um, no, that's a completely idiotic, ridiculous comparison, and that's not what I was saying at all. I'm not saying that just because I think it's okay to show someone how to use some software to do a task for them that they should also be able to do surgery on them, be an astronaut, or perform dental work on you.

          And I agree that you're not able to tell if someone is competent or not competent, that's why you ask for proof of some kind that they know what they're doing. I'm not saying that a law degree, or any other "proof" of expertise, is useless either. I'm saying that government needs to stay out of forcing someone to have a degree or certification of some kind to prove they have some sort of experience or knowledge.

          If you want to go out and open a business as a law expert, you should be able to do that whether or not you have a degree. The law shouldn't stop you from doing so. What the law SHOULD stop you from doing is lying, committing fraud, etc against people. That's against the law now, and it should always be against the law. But if you're someone with a good knowledge of the law, and you've proven it by hard work and experience in the field, then let consumers decide of their own free will if they want to use your services or not. Don't force that person to pay X amount of dollars to go get a certificate of some kind if someone is willing to pay you for your services. If two people, of their own free will, wish to enter into a contract with one another, with no force or fraud being used, then who are you or anyone else to interfere with that?

          If that person can't get business due to the fact that no one trusts them without some sort of certification, then they'd better go get said certification or proof in order to be successful.

           

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            Jo Mamma, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 1:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Slightly misleading title


            If you want to go out and open a business as a law expert, you should be able to do that whether or not you have a degree.

            My inner libertarian tends to agree with you, but as a practical matter, I think it's impossible to avoid interference.

            People are retarded. And someone that has no skill as an attorney may be a brilliant marketer (you already see that with the licensed attorneys on TV now.

            If you were to remove the requirement of a degree to practice law, people would inevitably go to the lowest priced crook, and after having gotten taken, insist on "accountability" from the gov't and the legal system. It would have to swing back to tighter control.

            I know, I know… nearly everyone agrees that the government is not our babysitter, but people’s opinions tend to dramatically change once they get into a tight spot.

             

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              Liberty Dave, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 1:28pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slightly misleading title

              I understand where you're coming from Jo Mamma. And I also agree with you that it's almost impossible to avoid interference from the government, people in the U.S. and most other countries think the government is the end all solution to most all problems.

              But I have to politely disagree with your reasoning, especially the part And someone that has no skill as an attorney may be a brilliant marketer (you already see that with the licensed attorneys on TV now.. There are lawyers out there now, WITH a degree, that are still brilliant marketers, and still fool people into using their services, and there always will be, no matter how strict the requirements are.

              One thing to realize though is that people trying to take advantage of you to cheat you in some way or harm you is in the minority. Most people would not do that. And "retarded" people as you call them are also in the minority.

              I'm not saying those "retarded" people, or elderly, or any other type of person that might be too gullible shouldn't be protected, they should be, which is why we have laws against cheating people, stealing from them, tricking them (fraud), harming them, etc. Those laws will ALWAYS be there. Whether or not you have a degree to do anything doesn't remove the fact that you cannot steal or commit fraud against someone. If you're caught, you will go to jail, pay a fine, or whatever the state decides is appropriate punishment (unless you're friends with a politician, in which case you can get out of most problems).

              So making the assumption that there will be more law breaking if you remove the requirement of having a degree to practice law really isn't valid in my opinion.

              As long as there are punishments for crimes there will be a deterrent for the majority of people to not commit crime, besides the fact that most people wouldn't want to rip you off anyways.

              One person in these posts made mention of the fact that one day you won't be able to work on your computer by yourself without have a certification or something. So let's use that example. If you're looking for someone to service your computer, where will you go, who will you trust? There are certifications out there, such as the A+ certification, Microsoft certifications, Linux certifications, etc, that are NOT REQUIRED by law, but consumers, for the most part, know that those with those certifications are usually more knowledgeable and have more expertise than someone without them.

              Those companies or individuals will market the fact that they have certain certifications, and there will be some that lie about their certifications and just get a piece of paper that looks official (against the law). Some will take advantage of you, some won't. But consumers for the most part will find out, through reputation, which ones are trustworthy, and which ones aren't.

              I just think the same thing should go for most industries and trades, such as law.

               

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                Vancouver Lawyer, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 1:49pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Slightly misleading title

                As a practicing lawyer, I am all for these will kits.

                I am quite used to people thinking that my years of school and years of practice are not worth anything, especially when they have seen some Matlock re-runs. The damage that you are pretty much guaranteed to do to yourself is consolation enough for me.

                Frankly, the price I charge for wills is much less then the price I charge for commencing an estate litigation action. The fact that someone has decided to save some money in order to turn their kids against each other is not my problem. They can at least die feeling smart.

                I also encourage people to use unlicensed practitioners to help them out. If a lawyer screws up, they are protected by an insurance fund that will cover the cost of repairing the damage. In an estate situation, this can mean millions of dollars. By going to an unlicensed practioner, the beneficiaries are unprotected and will have to swallow the cost of the screw up themselves. Good luck trying to recover.

                Finally, estate planning does not start and end with a will. If you are desperate to pay more money to the government than you need to and leave less to your beneficiaries, that's your call. Those leaches should get a job or something. What did they ever do for you? And are they really worth more than $50?

                 

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 6:11am

    I'd like a clause in mine. "If will is contested, everything goes to X Charity in X payments of X amount for X number of years"

     

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    Liberty Dave, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 6:46am

    Protecting industry

    Just like unions, other professions sometimes use government to protect their industry, and themselves, under the guise of "protecting the people", when in fact it doesn't protect "the people", it only protects them in their industry.

    It's like the laws that force someone to go through all sorts of trouble to get their builder's license, or a license to be able to work on air conditioners or electrical. Those laws are there supposidly to "protect the people" from people that don't know what they're doing. But all they're created for is to protect those in that industry and make it harder for competition to come in.

    When you leave it to the free market everyone will benefit. Sure there will be those dishonest folks that lie and say they have X years experience doing something, try to cheat people, do a shoddy job, etc. But that will happen whether or not you have regulations of an industry. At least without those regulations it forces those industries to compete with one another, which results in more choices for people, lower prices, and also allows more people to be able to get into that business and make a living.

    Corporate welfare, which is what this sort of thing is, raises prices for everyone, and it surely doesn't create more choices for consumers.

    Also, one more point. Lawyers try and make law seem so complicated, for what purpose? Why do they use so much convoluted language? Answer: To confuse the rest of us so that they have an advantage and we "need" their expertise. They basically generate their own demand artifically in the market in this way. It's ridiculous.

     

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      Suzerain, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 7:22am

      Re: Protecting industry

      You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. There has been a consistent movement over the past 100 years to put the law in plain language so a lay person can read and understand the law.

      So no, they are not trying to make it harder on you. I believe this is a reason the law has become convoluted. In the 19th century legalese was used much more extensively and a person without legal training would think they were reading a foreign language. The upide was the words had specific legal meaning. There was less room for interpretation and avoidance.

      Not every thing is a conspiracy. The law is complex because our society is complex. There is never going to be simple laws because there few things we do in our lives that are simple.

       

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        TheDock22, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:09am

        Re: Re: Protecting industry

        Here Here Suzerain!

        Yes I have a lawyer in the family, but I would still feel the same way even if there wasn't. Beside, who thinks the law is complicated? I'm probably one of the few Americans who READ this so called "complicated law" before signing away my name. It's really not that complicated and big words don't scare me.

        Also, I can draw up a completely legal contract, have it notorized, and also have it held up in court. It is not only illegal, but completely unethical, for someone else who is not a lawyer to assist me, since in the eyes of the law they might do it for their own personal gain.

        The law is set to protect it's citizens. But that doesn't stop people from trying to use it for their own personal gain (lawyers excluded).

         

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          haywood, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:18am

          Re: Re: Re: Protecting industry

          "Yes I have a lawyer in the family"
          Do they lie about it and tell people they are a piano player in a whorehouse?

           

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    You never know, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 7:14am

    *Sigh* Greed is such a terrible monster. And the only winner is the lawyer. To write a will you need a lawyer, to execute a will, you need a lawyer. If some one contests the will? Yep, more lawyers. What is obviously clear here is any attempt to bypass the "lawyers" places every one at risk of being sued. And guess who is writing thoes rules!?
    “It was once thought that in death was solace of mind. That was before someone made a business of protecting me from myself for which I have to pay. ”

     

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    charlie potatoes, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 7:22am

    sensational headline, mike

    Ok, you got me to take time out of my day to read how it's a crime to use quicken to make a will... unfortunately that isn't what your story is about.
    since i have no intention of opening an office and making wills using that software for hire, the article doesn't relate to me.
    i've seen similar headlines on the cover of national inquirer while i wait in line at the grocery store. somehow i expect better from TechDirt. oh well...fuck you towel heads.

     

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    charlie potatoes, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 7:29am

    100 years?

    It's taking 100 years to get the slimey bastards to put it into plain english? i think you made the point for us. the law is the written in gobbledygook because we allow lawyers to write it. get real.

     

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      Suzerain, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:02am

      Re: 100 years?

      I am. I do it every day. You missed the entire point when I said it has made the problems all the lay people are complaining about the law. Also, it is the people themselves who made the law complex when nonattorneys with no idea how the law works decide to write bills. The new bankruptcy code pushed through last year was written by a nonattorney with no knowledge of bankruptcy. I know the attorneys who tried to teach the congressional aide the law whiel she wrote it. It did not workl. Thus, we end up with the mess we have.

      The meaning of words is essential to law. Exact meaning is critical. That is why legalese was used. It prevents misunderstandings.

      Charlie go through out your life without those slimely bastards and see how things work out for you. It is those slimey bastards who are the front line when it comes to protecting your freedoms from our benevolent government.

       

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        Clark Westfield, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:07am

        Re: Re: 100 years?

        The meaning of words is essential to law. Exact meaning is critical. That is why legalese was used. It prevents misunderstandings. Then why do we need so many judges to "interpret the law"?

         

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          Jo Mamma, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:25am

          Re: Re: Re: 100 years?

          Because words will always be somewhat vauge, even with legal-ese.

          Also, the point the poster was trying to make was that things like contracts, wills, etc are written in very specific prose to state exactly what the intentions are.

          Often times, the law is written exactly the opposite... with room for interpretation.

           

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            TheDock22, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 100 years?

            Often times, the law is written exactly the opposite... with room for interpretation.

            I do agree with you there. But if the law were 100% absolute, we would still live in a country where only white men could own land, vote, and have rights of any kind.

            Change is good!

             

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          Mike M., Jan 25th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: 100 years?

          The meaning of words is essential to law. Exact meaning is critical. That is why legalese was used. It prevents misunderstandings.
          Then why do we need so many judges to "interpret the law"?




          Because even with the most plainly written, overly descriptive wording, every party to a dispute is going to try to wrangle the meaning of the words into a form that benefits that party.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 2:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: 100 years?

          Then why do we need so many judges to "interpret the law"?
          To make sure the outcome is politically correct. The law is applied differently depending upon who you are and it is the judge's job to make sure it works that way.

           

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    Charlie, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 7:57am

    Did he charge?

    I think the issue lays in whether or not the accountant charged for it. I am a Veterinarian, I can't go on the internet and help diagnose a human, then charge them for it. I can however give all the advice I want to a friend as a friend, as long as there is no fee associated with the advice. If the account charged $ for using the software, then yes, he is guilty.

     

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    Rootman, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:12am

    So wouldn't every . . .

    Rack of fill in the blanks forms at every stationary store be guilty of the same thing?

    Seems like layers just bitching at a loss of potential income.

     

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      Suzerain, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:19am

      Re: So wouldn't every . . .

      No, selling the forms would not open you up to potential claims of unauthorized practice of law. If the clerk of the store starting giving you advice on how to fill out the forms and the legal effect thereof then they would be trouble.

      Unless you have a complicated estate that requires some tax planning it is not going to cost you a lot of money to get a will done. In fact, a great number of people with no resources get their wills done pro bono by local bar asscociations.

       

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        Jo Mamma, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 9:33am

        Re: Re: So wouldn't every . . .

        I agree with you completely Suzerain. I am not a lawyer, and have none in my family, nor do I know any outside of a professional context.

        Would you want a non-doctor performing surgery, how about a non-dentist performing a root canal, or (here's one you'll take issue with) a non-real estate agent performing your real estate transaction?

        To suggest that non-lawyers should be able to charge or even perform legal services is a disservice to the expertise lawyers contribute to society. And this insurance agent should have known better than to perform a legal service.

        If you believe lawyers aren't experts, I'd suggest you haven't dealt with any good ones.

        You may believe they are the bane of society now, but if someone wrongs you, how are you going to seek recourse??? Perhaps you should call your insurance agent.

         

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    Nasty Old Geezer, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:40am

    Wills

    Two thoughts -- the agent is likely to get n trouble with Intuit for "renting" the software in violation of the software license (another case of effing lawyers screwing the real people).

    I used a lawyer for a will and a trust document, because of some specific needs I have that not really ordinary. She asked us to sign it, and the damn thing had the names of the last people to ask for something similar. She hadn't done anything for her very high fee except re-print. She wasn't even embarrassed, just shrugged and had the admin assistant change the names.

    Lawyers will burn in hell.

     

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    Dam, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:41am

    All She Needed To Do.....

    was sign a power of attorney for the insurance agent. Lacking such a document exposes the agent to a suit, regardless of what his intentions were.

    The family might try to sue claiming he used his influence improperly, but if the woman had no history of being irrational or showing a diminshed capacity, such a suit wouldn't stand.

     

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      Suzerain, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 9:30am

      Re: All She Needed To Do.....

      That is shockingly wrong. By signing a power of attorney she becomes a fiduciary of the principal. Therefore, he is held to the highest standard of care under the law. An attorney would have a field day with an Agent, not a lawyer, under a Power of Attorney giving legal advice.

      You probably just made the case for the other side. That is why nonlawyers should not give legal advice. You just screwed the person you gave the advice to, and they WILL hire a lawyer to come after you.

       

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        Jo Mamma, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re: All She Needed To Do.....

        Again, you are exactly right.

        This guy doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about.

        Agreed. If you think using a POA is a viable solution, you just made a very good point as to why the world needs lawyers.

         

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    NotALawyer&DontPlayOneOnTV, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:58am

    Lawyer BS

    It's ridiculous to prevent non-lawyers from giving legal advice and charging for it. Real estate agents do this all of the time indirectly, as do others.

    The problem is when people sell legal advice without informing their client that they are not licensed to practice law.

    I've lived in Washington, DC, a city full of lawyers for 17 years. And yes, by and large, they really are greedy bastards with no morals. But I've done a lot of policy analysis that required me to read the actual law. And what others have said is true. Lawyers and legalese are very precise in their language, while most non-lawyers are not.

    That said, I'm also very precise in my language and write up most of my own contracts, etc., and feel comfortable doing so and occassionally give out free legal advice (which, knock on wood, has never come back to bite my ass or the asses of the people to whom I have given advice).

     

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      Suzerain, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 9:36am

      Re: Lawyer BS

      Non-lawyers can give advice such as real estate agents and CPAs. However, they are extremely limited in scope. They are like psuedo-lawyers. They are allowed to give some advice limited to the areas in which they are licensed!

      So, same issue. If you do not like one then do not like the other.

       

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    Tyshaun, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 9:54am

    The larger issue is....

    To me the larger issue is the fact that the legal system is so complex that it requires an expert to maneuver threw it, yet we are all bound to follow the rules of law. We're being held to a set of standards that the law says in some questions are too complicated for non-lawyers to adequately understand. That whole thing about ignorance not being an excuse, under the law, suddenly needs some serious re-evaluation in light of the fact that the law appears (in some instances) to view all lay-people as too ignorant to understand and use the law.

     

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      Jo Mamma, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:21am

      Re: The larger issue is....

      Tyshaun, I can certainly see your point with that.

      In many instances, the law is full of nuance and you may need an expert to help you navigate.

      I just don't know if it's fair to say this is all because of lawyers being greedy. Certainly there are some that are greedy, but I'd say it's the litigants that are generally the greedy ones.

      And it's those that file the claims which necessitate the law to be so specific and at times complicated.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting there aren't law firms that encourage pointless litigation, but if there wasn't a market, they wouldn't exist.

      I also think that the person who said the legal software programs are ok replacements for lawyers has a point too, in many cases. But sometimes those "bells and whistles" may be the difference between you getting your final wishes carried through in the form of your will, and your heirs tearing it to shreds after you die.

       

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      Suzerain, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:35am

      Re: The larger issue is....

      This I agree with completely. One area where there should no ambiguity is criminal law. How can one be held liable for a law that no one can understand. That is a great travesty of our system.

      For certain laws, ie SEC regulations and ERISA statutes, I believe it is enough to be put on notice you need to have counsel screen your actions to make sure they comply.

      The RICO laws are the best example of this. This law was meant to apply to organized crime and now it is applied to everything under the sun. You cannot have a criminal law where no one knows until you are prosecuted that it was a violation of the law.

       

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    A Skeptic, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Good or Bad Advice?

    Lawyers are just trying to protect their large legal bills to deny legal service anyone who is not rich. An all purpose will prepared by a computer program can be OK for most people as long as you realize it won't have all the bells, whistles and loopholes that lawyers provide.

     

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    Sheesh, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:24am

    TheDock22

    The law is not THAT complicated. It might take me an extra hour or two to read through the language than it would a lawyer, but it spells everything out when it comes to contracts. If you can understand the law, you don't need a lawyer even in the courtroom. Do lawyers draw up contracts that completely save your butt in the courtroom? Definitely. Would I use a lawyer for a will and POA? Most definitely.

    And this whole thing about lying, deceitful, immoral lawyers, well that a load of crap. All the lawyers I know are good, decent, and VERY honest about their practice. People act like lawyers are evil, when there are just as many crappy doctors (who while obligated by law, will perform a quick-and-dirty surgery on patients they know can't pay), accountants (who may siphon away money for their own greed), and most business men (who are just ruthless and cut-throat). Am i saying ALL the people in these fields are evil? No, there are many good ones.

    And if you a person who got screwed by a lawyer, well who's fault is that? A couple hours of reading would have saved your money. If your that big an idiot, you deserved it. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you...

    Oh and by the way, I would NEVER sign a POA to an insurance agent. That's literally signing my life away (as the have the power to "pull the plug" in certain medical situations). But people wouldn't really do that, right?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:44am

    Covering our arses

    C'mon people. Can anyone think of a profession in which its practitioners don't have a vested interest in perpetuating their own jobs?

    Every field has its jargon; physicians intubate, attorneys litigate. Each must do so with an attendant level of precision and specialization. There are things that lawyers do--and words they have to use--that address situations outside of our ordinary experience.

    The average citizen has little patience for the nuances of these dicsiplines until their fortune, well-being, or their very life is in the hands of such professionals.

    While I am loathe to disagree with Shakespeare, the fact is that if you try to treat sepsis with rubbing alcohol, you get what you deserve. Likewise if you pay a physician to "cure" a broken rib, though there will always be the scoundrel who will take your money.

    DIY is fine when you're making punk rock records, but there are some matters of life, living, and death that do require professional assistance.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 10:44am

    Covering our a**es

    C'mon people. Can anyone think of a profession in which its practitioners don't have a vested interest in perpetuating their own jobs?

    Every field has its jargon; physicians intubate, attorneys litigate. Each must do so with an attendant level of precision and specialization. There are things that lawyers do--and words they have to use--that address situations outside of our ordinary experience.

    The average citizen has little patience for the nuances of these dicsiplines until their fortune, well-being, or their very life is in the hands of such professionals.

    While I am loathe to disagree with Shakespeare, the fact is that if you try to treat sepsis with rubbing alcohol, you get what you deserve. Likewise if you pay a physician to "cure" a broken rib, though there will always be the scoundrel who will take your money.

    DIY is fine when you're making punk rock records, but there are some matters of life, living, and death that do require professional assistance.

     

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    Bryan Price, Jan 25th, 2007 @ 8:08pm

    Complex wills maybe, but not any I've dealt with

    I've created my own will. Big whoop. If I die and my spouse is still alive, she gets it all. If she's kicked the can ahead of me, it gets split amongst my two sets of twins. 25% each. Difficult, complex? Nope.

    In the case of my dad's will (which is the same as my stepmothers'), she still lives, so she got everything. When she does die, assuming things are still the same, and they probably are, my half-brother and I split half, and her son and two daughters split half. I think it would have gone better to just have split it five ways. It's not like I'm (or any *-sibling) expecting to get rich off that will.

    My mother was the baby of her family, my dad the baby of his family, so aunts and uncles aren't even a thought. I certainly don't have to worry about my older half-brother and half-sister (I was in a melded family before they ever had the term melded family). They aren't worrying about me.

    6 years ago, when I wasn't married, it might have actually been more complex. I didn't have a will then either. :-P I don't understand why wills have to be complex. If I have that much money to worry about, I'd think I'd have already handed off the money and property to whoever before I die.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2007 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Complex wills maybe, but not any I've dealt wi

    I've created my own will. Big whoop. If I die and my spouse is still alive, she gets it all. If she's kicked the can ahead of me, it gets split amongst my two sets of twins. 25% each. Difficult, complex? Nope.
    Yep. For starters, we've got Children A, B, C and D. Let's hope you live long enough for at least some of them to get grandkids, A and C each have two children. Unfortunately, A dies before you do. It's no longer split 25% among the four children, as there are three remaining. If your will calls for your "estate to be split amongst my two sets of twins. 25% each," then your will will get kicked into probate where A's children will get a wildly different amount of your estate depending on the state you live in, as you have made no legally sufficient provision for them (and most form wills and even some will-writing software don't make adequate provision for state-specific probate interpretation). On the other hand, you have substantially enriched the government through estate taxes and given a healthy chunk of cash to a probate lawyer (me) who will have to be hired to sort out your intention based on the now-incomplete document you left behind. That's assuming B, C and D don't contest the final interpretation of the will. Or A's two children. Or A's spouse. If any of them do, more lawyers! Oh, and in re: influencing the testator, legal malpractice is a fantastic way to end one's career, and it's really not all that tempting in the estates & trusts field. Seriously. If I'm charging you $100 to draft a will, why would I risk my career over maybe getting you to pony up another $100 when I realize it needs to be "cleaned up"? And as for contesting the will, it's hardly my problem that you have greedy descendants who start grabbing for a bigger pile of cash before you're in the ground.

     

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    Bonnie, Jan 28th, 2007 @ 2:57pm

    Lawyers Suck

    Is anyone really surprised? Lawyers are politicians in training for a reason. They go into the field as history majors because they know how to manipulate the laws of our land. That's why they all become wealthy, career politicians. So they can systematically ruin our country and turn it into a liberal nightmare, villified by the rest of the world. There is no other more powerful bunch of thieves in the world than the attorneys.

     

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    Jo Mamma, Feb 24th, 2007 @ 12:35am

    Your point is?

     

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    DoogaYumYum, Mar 11th, 2007 @ 7:37am

    The will is legal

    As comboman states, the will itself is valid. Also, don't you think that Quicken and NOLO researched and tested the validity of of the will making software? Also, someone can re-type the entire output will and pass it off as their own. No one will ever know. The will, by itself, needs to be judged and not how it was made. This article is very misleading and I'm sure Quicken will respond.

    If someone has a very complex estate and many beneficiaries and conditions, then a lawyer would probably be warranted but in the case if "If I die I want everything to go to my wife", then I can't see why a noterized will (no matter how it is made) won't hold up in court.

     

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    Christopher Miller, May 7th, 2007 @ 10:56am

    Why I need a lawyer to draft a will

    1. Lets say you decide to leave all of your possessions as follows: I leave all of my estate to my nephew Joseph. Then, when you die, Joseph is also dead. You just created a nice little problem that could have been avoided by the insertion of 3 words.

    2. Let's say you die with a nice estate, but you have no spouse, and no children. A nice friendly lawyer would tell you that you should have a trust to ho0ld most of your assets, and a will simply to transfer anything left to the trust. But because you went to some idiot who doesn't know the law of estate administration, all you have is a will. Your estate can now take years to be distributed.

    3. Lawyers love to find out that the will they have been hired to contest was drafted and supervised by a non-lawyer.

    4. Lawyers who draft wills also have experience in contesting wills. This is a great way to learn what not to do that cannot be learned from any form book or software. There's a will in my office that is so atrocious that the estate administration is still ongoing seven years after death. And there hasn't even been a will contest. Whenever you hear a horror story about an estate administration that took years, don't blame the estate lawyer. Blame the estate planner, who was probably a non-lawyer, or a a inexperienced lawyer.

    It seems to me that there is a lot of arrogance to the question, "How hard can it be to say where your assets should go." There are things we know that we don't know, and there are things that we don't know we don't know. Arrogant people will forever be tripped up by the latter.

     

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    Carol S. Cooper, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 11:40am

    Lawyers make more money from DIY wills

    A lawyer can make more money attacking or defending a screwed up do-it-yourself will or trust than s/he can preparing a valid document in the first place. And when one of the kids prepares mom or dad's will and a sibling doesn't like the result, watch out for big attorney's fees straightening out that mess.

     

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    Thomas O'Donoghue, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 11:40am

    Unauthorized practice of Law

    This case refers to the insurance agent acting beyond his scope in the provision of a Will. It was his provision of the will and not the creation on the software, which is the issue.

    The software is not the question. It was his practice in the development and subsequent delivery of the Will, which is unauthorized since he is not qualified to do so. An agent does not have the capacity to act as he did. The software is irrelevant; it could have been a pen and paper, same result.

    The legal knowledge of this thread is beyond me, if you cannot understand the basics of a case, I suggest you restrain you comments since they are completely misleading from a legal point of view.

    I suggest you read the case, rather than mislead the
    This case refers to the insurance agent acting beyond his scope in the provision of a Will. It was his provision of the will and not the creation on the software, which is the issue.

    The software is not the question. It was his practice in the development and subsequent delivery of the Will, which is unauthorized since he is not qualified to do so. An agent does not have the capacity to act as he did. The software is irrelevant; it could have been a pen and paper, same result.

    The legal knowledge of this thread is beyond me, if you cannot understand the basics of a case, I suggest you restrain you comments since they are completely misleading from a legal point of view.

    I suggest you read the case, rather than mislead People,
    Thomas

     

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    Scotty, Oct 7th, 2008 @ 4:26pm

    Who Cares?

    If I use a software (forms) program to do my Will, and my insurance agent, friend, brother, or whoever else I choose to help me do it is present, then so be it! It's no ones buisness Period! END OF STORY! The fact of the matter is, is that the Will is MY WILL, and I DON'T *need* some advice from an attorney whom I will end up paying $150 - On Up. As long as the proper form for what ever you are doing, is filled out properly and filed properly, then that is all that counts PERIOD! WHAT??? is every judge going to ask every person who wrote his/her own Will if any one helped them prepare it before it is legal and valid? Screw the judge, he/she is nothing more than a REFEREE to make sure both sides play fair in the case being held. Screw the greedy idiots who actually filed the case. Awww shucks! No one has even mentioned that you can go to the court house, and simply ASK for the exact same forms for what you are doing, and receive an "Instructions Page" along with it??? Huh? What? The instructions page isn't a licensed attorney. Now where's the lawyers in a situation like that? Lawyers do not care about his/her clients, it's about how much $$$ they can collect and pocket from them win or lose. Statute Laws are not enacted laws and mean only what the judges and lawyers want them to mean for them. Laws written and created for lawyers, by lawyers. GREED GREED GREED.

     

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    Michael, Jan 29th, 2009 @ 2:24pm

    Making your own will???

    I doubt very seriously that making your own will would be construed as unauthorized practice of law since a hand written will (it has to be in the handwriting of the deceased) is considered a valid will as long as it is properly executed. To be properly executed, it has to be either notorized or witnessed by two individuals who do not partake of the will. Drafting a will for another individual may be considered practicing a will be if they only take your advice on how to execute and make their own will, there will be no problems come time to execute the will. Of course, any will can be challenged but as long as it was properly executed, the courts will decide in the favor of the deceased.

     

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    Frank, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 8:27pm

    Lawyer can be a bad decision and so can do it yourself

    We used Quicken WillMaker Plus 2011 and screw you lawyers who do not like it. I do not trust any of you. Our goal was to get everything down and to become familiar with the process. It was worth every dime we paid. Once we felt we had everything important in it, we then and only then, obtained an attorney. We used our software will to make sure he did not miss anything. I have never had a good experience with a lawyer, with one exception. The 2nd attorney I went to for one particular problem did an excellent job. The first one was a dreadful bum.

     

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