Are online legal forms worth it?

Shortly after the world discovered it was possible to do all their Christmas shopping in their pajamas without leaving the house, online legal assistance websites sprouted on the Internet. The owners of these sites—and some are famous attorneys—claim you didn’t need a local attorney to write your will, settle your estate or even get a Georgia divorce. You just fill out some forms and file it in court and you are done, according to these sites.

While the need to save money is understandable, are you really saving money using online legal forms? This question is explored in articles by the Today Show, MarketWatch and CBS. The conclusions are mixed. Here are some points to consider:

Are the forms applicable to your state and updated?

The 50 states have different laws and procedures and each county in the state may have different procedures. Often the generic forms online have changed. Be aware that forms also vary from county to county. Local attorneys keep up with the rules and procedures of the court.

Are you filling out the forms properly?

This is a challenge for court clerks across the country. Even some lawyers will make a mistake in a filing from time to time. If you chose to use an online legal assistance website, take time to fill out the form correctly and completely.

What happens when you get in over your head?

Georgia divorces that involve custody disputes or alimony are not settled by filling out a legal document and filing it in court. This is also true for other cases such as settling estates or pleading guilty to a crime. Some of the online legal assistance websites refer you to an attorney for a fee. Ask the attorney if he she is familiar with the local legal rules. Does he or she know the judges and other judges? Will he or she take the time to get to know you and your case?

Want free forms?

Yes, you can get some forms without spending any money. Many courts include forms on their website you can download and fill out. Keep in mind that complicated legal matters cannot be solved by filling out a form and sending it in to the clerk of court. Also, some legal forms such as leases or contracts are not found on these sites.

Hiring a local attorney

Legal matters are not the same as buying your nephew’s favorite toy online for his birthday. Before you click on that cart for a will or estate plan, consider the mistakes you can make with do-it-yourself legal planning. Local attorneys meet with you one-on-one, handle all the paperwork for court and are with you in the courtroom when you appear before the judge. Can you get all this from an online legal assistance website?