Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why use a lawyer?

"Why should I pay a couple hundred dollars to a lawyer when I can get this online form for $35?"

This is a fair question. A few recent examples will help to illustrate the answer.
  • Clients came in with a will prepared by Quicken WillMaker. The first several pages of the will provided detailed instructions for their funeral services, how their bodies are to be handled, etc. I explained to them that this may be useful as their requests to their children, but that none of this is binding on anyone. In Michigan, decisions on the handling of a dead body are made by the next of kin, not by the personal representative of the estate.
  • A quit-claim deed done years ago to transfer a cabin, using a form found at an office supply store, was ineffective because the grantor was a married man at the time, and his wife did not join in the deed. The fact that the man had been single and the only grantee when he acquired the land did not change that outcome.
  • In a recent reported case coming out of Florida, Ann Aldrich created a will using an "EZ Will Form" in 2004. The form did not include a residuary clause, a provision directing what should happen with the remainder of the individual's property after specific bequests are made. As a result, after her death, her two nieces received a substantial sum of money, even though the rest of the will showed that her brother was her intended beneficiary.
The answer to the question: Yes, you can do it for $35, but you can do it right for a little more. A simple quit-claim deed done in our office may cost $100, for example. When your transaction involves property worth several thousands of dollars, spending what it takes to do it right makes much more sense.

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