By Desiree Kumar | State Bar of Wisconsin
Legal forms are now more accessible through online legal document websites. Although buying these documents can provide short-term cost savings, it also carries several long-term risks that could result in significant expense to you. Here is why:
Forms may not comply with Wisconsin law
Online forms will likely contain generic, boilerplate wording and information. This can be problematic as each state has its own set of laws. By using an online legal form, you run the risk of not complying with Wisconsin law.
Forms may not be up-to-date
The law is constantly changing. When the legislature is in session, it is regularly passing new laws. Another type of law, common law, is shaped by the decisions made in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Both these courts frequently release new judgments that change the common law. Depending on when you draft your online legal form, it may not reflect the latest legal changes.
Forms not tailored to your situation
Online companies draft legal documents in a generic manner to cater to a wide audience, aiming to increase their sales by reaching a broader customer base. This can be problematic if you have a unique or complex issue. A tailored legal document to your specific situation is going to provide you with the best protection.
If there is an issue with your legal form not providing adequate legal protection, you may not have any recourse against the company from which you purchased it. Many online legal document websites contain terms stating that the company makes no guarantees and that there may be inaccuracies in the forms. In fact, they may not even guarantee that the online form was even prepared by an attorney in the first place, which can be especially problematic as your goal is to protect your legal rights.
No assurance that forms are executed properly
There are many different procedural requirements when it comes to legal forms. This can range from how to file a document with the court or how to properly execute an estate planning document. An online legal form is not necessarily going to provide the proper guidance to assure you that these requirements are met. Failure to follow mandatory procedures may have detrimental consequences.
Additional time and money to correct inaccuracies
If it does turn out that there are issues with your legal form, it may result in even more time and expenses than you would have paid in the first place to correct any errors. In a best-case scenario, this may include simply needing to hire an attorney to revise or draft the document. However, you may need to hire an attorney to represent you in court if a dispute arises over the validity of the form or an error in the form. These disputes can extend out for months – if not years – and end up costing you thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Collaborating directly with a Wisconsin attorney should ensure that your legal documents comply with Wisconsin’s laws, providing you with peace of mind.
Desiree K. Kumar is an attorney at the Law Office of Desiree K. Kumar LLC in Grafton, Wisconsin. She concentrates her practice on small business and real estate matters. Know Your Legal Rights is sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin Lawyer Referral Service, which connects Wisconsin residents with lawyers throughout the state. Learn more atwislaw.org.