Gayle Reeves' Blog

Hazards to Do It Yourself Documents

Gayle A. Reeves - Friday, May 01, 2015

The internet provides us with a wealth of useful and amazing information.But, as I always tell my son when he is using the internet to research a topic for his homework, you have to know your sources. Are you getting your information from someone’s blog or are you getting it from someone who is an expert in their field? This advice also applies to using legal forms from the internet.

One of the most important things to check for is whether the form complies with Ohio law. Each state has its own requirements for a variety of documents For example, in order for a Will to be valid in Ohio it must be signed in the presence of 2 witnesses. In another state the signature may have to be notarized or signed in the presence of 3 witnesses.

The second most important thing is to make sure that the form is properly completed. I have seen many forms that are missing key information because the person completing the form did not know what to put in the blanks.

For example, I met with a son who needed to use a Power of Attorney to transfer his mother’s home to the buyers. His mother had signed a Power of Attorney that the son had gotten from the internet. Unfortunately, the Power of Attorney did not contain a provision that gave the son the authority to sell and transfer real estate. Since the mother was no longer competent to sign a Power of Attorney containing that provision, nor could she sign the closing documents, our only choice was to make an application to the Probate Court to have the son appointed as Guardian. The usual guardianship process takes between 30 and 45 days from the date the application is filed with the Court to the day that the Guardian is appointed.Then a separate Land Sale action has to be filed, which usually takes another 120 days until we have authority to sell the property.; How much easier, and cheaper, it would have been to have had an attorney draw up a Power of Attorney that contained the proper provisions.

Finally, when using internet forms, there isn’t anyone who can explain how the documents are used, when they are used, and what they really mean. I prepare a lot of Living Wills and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.&These documents are readily available on the internet. However, what I have discovered is that most people do not understand when these documents are used, the powers that are given in the documents, and the limitations that are placed on the agent. I recently gave a presentation about these documents to nurses and social workers. Many of the healthcare professionals did not appreciate the extent of the powers given in the Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Internet forms do have value in that they give you an idea of the types of things you should be thinking about when doing your estate planning. However they are not a substitute for meeting with an attorney who can give you advice on which documents you need and which provisions they should contain.