Does self-help software produce legal documents?

1 answer | Last updated: Jun 21, 2010
Ashley biteler asked...

Do software and online products that allow you to write your own will, living will, and power of attorney produce legal documents?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I must divulge that I am one of the authors of such a product, WillMaker, by Nolo. That divulged, and without tooting any merits of that particular software program, I can vouch that it can help you produce legally sound documents. One reason is that it was written by a team of lawyers who fastidiously researched the laws in all states to make sure the documents were tailored to comply with each of them. And it is continually updated to make sure it stays current. So when considering any such self-help product, make sure it produces documents that comply with the nuances of you state's law and that it is updated often. Avoid template forms that profess to be legal in every state for every need.

While most lawyers would argue that you need to hire them to write your will or healthcare directive, or power of attorney, the truth is that only you can do the hardest part of the job: deciding who should get your property and what medical care you wish to have administered.

A self-help law product may not be your best solution if you have a very complicated situation -- for example, you need to set up a special needs trust for a child who has a disability. But for most folks, they can do the trick.

To save time and money and retain some control over their documents, some people who still want reassurance opt to produce a draft of these legal documents with a self-help product, then hire a lawyer who will agree to simply eyeball it to be sure it has met their needs.