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Estates & Wills & Trusts

Lawyers should take note of cheap, online legal tools: Urback

Lawyers should pay attention to online platforms that offer legal documents at a fraction of the price, Toronto litigator Matthew Urback tells The Lawyer’s Daily.  

The proliferation of sites like one launched recently in Canada, which provides an online platform for people to create their own legal documents for under $40, is a commentary on the high cost of legal fees, says Urback, an associate with Shibley Righton LLP’s Toronto office.

“It’s something that the legal community should take note of because I think a business like this could absolutely grow if lawyer’s fees continue to be at a level where it’s simply either not affordable for your everyday person or it’s too onerous to hire a lawyer,” he tells the online legal publication.  

Urback says such sites can be beneficial because they provide clients with a cost-effective version of a legal document, which is usually better than having nothing at all.

“Even if there are some drawbacks, it’s always better to have something in place rather than having absolutely nothing. If there’s an individual who just wants something extremely basic, at least for their will, I would say something like this is preferable to having nothing at all,” he tells the publication.

Urback does, however, caution people that the online version may not cover all the legal bases for one’s particular situation.

“Every phrase, word and clause has a legal significance and frequently it may be that each clause or paragraph has to be specifically tailored for an individual’s particular circumstances. Sometimes, online documents like this are very rigid. It makes it difficult to add in anything that might be unique to your specific circumstances and it might be difficult to make sweeping changes,” he says.

In the article, Urback says lawyers act as an “independent hand” that can stave off undue influence when it comes to wills. There would be no such legal protection with a will created online.

“I could see a scenario where a family member puts a piece of paper in front of an individual who may be prone to undue influence and just has them sign it and it fulfils all of the formal requirements," he says.

"You wouldn’t have that independent evidence of a lawyer who, if a challenge is ultimately made, may help one way or another to try and speak of the relationship between the individual who made the will and the individual who has claimed to have unduly influenced the first individual,” Urback says.

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