Online Legal Services and Products
It is generally never advisable for a layperson to purchase legal services or legal products, without meeting with or obtaining a personalized consultation with an attorney. We sometimes have new clients who say that they can get cheaper forms online or from the local office supply store. That's probably true in many cases. But, as they say, generally, "you get what you pay for."
Buying "canned" legal forms is dangerous.When we do legal work for any client, we meet with the client. We get the client to provide us with details about themselves that we need to know in order to provide proper legal services to them, taking into account their personal and family situations, and the jurisdictions where they reside or in which they do business. We tailor our work for each specific client.
Purchasing "one size fits all" forms or services, rarely matches a client with his or her particular needs, and it may mislead the client into believing that her or she has done what was needed to protect themselves. Frankly, it probably benefits our practice when clients use canned forms. We often make a higher fee fixing the problems those clients get from using such forms, than we would in drafting the right forms, and providing the right advice, for the same client in the first place.
That said, we have started offering some basic legal products within the framework of web-based programming. Some forms do require the same basic information from each client, before they are customized. We have found that we can reduce our pricing for some of these forms if the client provides the initial information for us.
For example, we now offer a web-based estate planning package for our clients, consisting of a "basic" Will, an Advance Healthcare Directive and a General Power of Attorney. These are forms that at least 90% of our estate planning clients need.
Ordinarily, when we start estate planning work for a new client, we send the client a questionnaire to complete. We set the client down for an appointment in our office, or be telephone conference if an in-office consultation is not possible. The client brings the completed questionnaire with them to that first meeting.
We then look at the client's family situation and assets, talk to the client about their particular facts, propose an estate plan tailored for their particular circumstances, quote and receive a fixed fee, craft the necessary documents, send them to the client for review and approval, revise the documents if necessary, and then meet with the client in our office, with witnesses and notary present, for document execution.
In that format, a "basic" Will, Advance Healthcare Directive and General Power of Attorney are currently billed at a minimum "package" price of $750 plus expenses. More complicated documents, that take more of our time, cost more money. This includes more detailed Wills with intricate "trust" arrangements, Living Trusts, "survivorship" instruments, Real Estate Partnership Agreements, and other similar documents that are part of many good estate plans.
However, we also now offer some of the same basic forms online, following a different format:
1. The client agrees to pay and pays online a fixed fee for internet-based document development, a fee that is ordinarily lower than a standard in-office consultation would dictate.
2. Also online, the client answers specific questions necessary to complete the particular forms.
3. The client is provided with a draft of the document for approval and revision.
4. One set of changes is offered as part of the discounted fee.
5. Where in-office execution is required, e.g. for estate planning work, the client is scheduled to come into our office to sign the documents before witnesses and notary, and a limited scope consultation is provided at that time, prior to document execution.
6. In estate planning situations, we still ask each client to complete and bring to the meeting one of our questionnaires, so that we can make sure that the correct documents have been created. This does not mean that we agree to revise our documents without further charge based upon such questionnaires. But, we can at least better advise the client about the extent to which the documents they have purchased will fully do what they need.
This abbreviates the document drafting process, including reducing at least two meetings to one. But, only very "basic" document format are offered in this fashion. But, where apppropriate, clients can save some money going this route. For example, our standard fixed fee for an on-line Will, Advance Healthcare Directive and General Power Attorney is presently $400 (plus credit card charges as applicable).
It is important to realize, though, that:
1. We do not guarantee that any such "basic" documents are best suited to your particular situation. You will be the one telling us that you only want a basic Will, though a more complicated document may really be in order.Oftentimes, for example, you can obtain more favorable tax benefits for your estate by using a creative trust arrangment of some kind, which online documents are not designed to address.
2. We accept no responsibility for defective document execution, if the client fails to come to our office for execution of any a particular documents. Improper execution of some of these documents can invalidate them completely.
3. You will not receive the fullest scope of our services for a reduced fee charge. Beyond the pre-paid document drafting fee described, any additional work or consultation is billable at our then-currently hourly rate, presently $300/hr plus expenses. So, if we create a "basic" estate planning package for you, and if turns out that you really need something more complicated, you might end up paying us more than you might have paid if a standard consultation and document drafting package was purchased.
4. Online document charges are never refundable, unless we fail to provide you with the documents which you ordered (which we will never do).
With those things in mind, here is what we presently offer online:
Standard Estate Planning Package
Georgia Advance Healthcare Directive
Powers of Attorney
Please note: We reserve copyright protection for all of our forms. Accordingly, our clients are never provided with editable forms. We provided only locked .pdf forms for client review and approval.