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  • Legal broom: cleaning up the negative consequences of automated legal services

An article in the ABA journal this week predicted the end of lawyers. While the title of the article is meant to be sensational, the author argued that the advancement of smart technology could significantly reduce the number of lawyers needed. While this may be true for legal research or real estate transactions, major draw backs still exist for using technology for estate planning.
It is true that a computer program is very efficient in completing legal documents. We use advanced software in the firm to draft wills and trusts. However, the drafting of documents is the easy part to estate planning. The complex part of estate planning and elder law comes when the type of planning desired is discussed. During these initial meetings, we discuss family dynamics and creditor issues that can have a profound effect on the type of estate planning that is chosen.
The need for the human element is even more extensive in elder law. When planning for VA pension and nursing home Medicaid, assets must be transferred in a specific way to secure eligibility. It is not always a straightforward process to transfer assets, and a trained eye is needed to determine whether all assets have been transferred. If one asset that was supposed to have been transferred remains in the hands of the applicant for nursing home Medicaid or VA pension, they will likely be disqualified from receiving benefits. The human touch is also valuable when applying for VA pension and nursing home Medicaid. The caseworkers who review the applications for benefits are often well intentioned but make mistakes. A trained elder law attorney can assist the caseworker in understanding the unique aspects of the case, and securing an approval. So while an automated vacuum can be useful, there is no substitute for a trained elder law attorney.