Why Document Preparation Websites Can Cost You

By Casson Wen –


he phrase “do-it-yourself” is often used in the context of home improvement, cooking  or craft projects and is usually associated with saving money. However, unlike a failed attempt at baking the perfect bread, using a document preparation website to draft your legal documents can cost you more than just your dough. As any good attorney will tell you, always read the fine print. Before you use a document preparation website to do things like form a company or draft a will, consider these two points.

First, document preparation websites are not a substitute for consulting with an attorney. Chances are that if you are seeking to draft a legal document, you are also seeking related legal advice, advice which you will not find on a document preparation website. In fact, one of the top document preparation websites states in its Terms of Use that it does not review a user’s answers for legal sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide legal advice, opinions or recommendations about a user’s legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies, or apply the law to the facts of the user’s particular situation. In fact, this document preparation website further disclaims that the legal information contained on its site is “not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date” and that its services are “not substitutes for the advice or services of an attorney.”

Second, these websites treat your legal issue in isolation. Yet, one document can create a ripple effect in your legal issue pond. Attorneys are trained to spot legal issues and can advise you on the potential impact of your document as it relates to your particular situation now and more importantly, in the future. Document preparation websites can give you a false sense of security because they do not alert you to potential future issues. Say, for example, you use a document preparation website to prepare your own will and unknowingly make a mistake. Perhaps the online form you used was out of date or incomplete, or maybe you accidentally checked the wrong box when answering a question. Or, perhaps you failed to consider the tax implications of your selections. Now, your will is tucked away in a drawer in your home. Though the mistake may be fixable, it creates an unnecessary headache that will require time and money to resolve.

In short, document preparation websites offer legal documents at an affordable price by offering a one-size-fits-all approach. But, your legal issue is exactly that, your legal issue. While you might save money in the short term, a document that does not provide your legal solution can end up costing you more in the long run.

Casson Wen is a Fort Bend County native and is an attorney in the Fort Bend County office of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, where he focuses his practice on corporate, real estate and probate matters.