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 Article of Interest - Legal Research

Lawyer Software Gets Thumbs Up
by Larry Blasko, Associated Press, December 2002
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Nature sends fleas to irritate dogs and lawyers to irritate humans. But there are software programs that can minimize the legal bite and itch, and one of them is Family Lawyer 2003 Deluxe Home and Business from Broderbund software for Windows 98 and later machines.

Although it's nicely arranged and easy to use, the program offers pages and pages of fill-in-the-blank documents in legalese that address common situations.

Tenant late in paying the rent? Shoot them a pay-up-or-else letter.

Is that cough starting to sound troubling? Don't forget a will.

In general, the documents cover most aspects of estate planning, health care, real estate, business and employment. That sort of meat-and-potatoes legal stuff is spiced with things like FBI-CIA records request form and identity theft affadavit.

The software includes the American Bar Association's Family Legal Guide and a Plain Language Law Dictionary. The dictionary is especially helpful when you get a letter sprinkled with Latin legalisms or strange terms like "abatement of bequest." (That's the procedure carried out when you die leaving the kids a million dollars each and your executor discovers your entire estate, after debts, is worth 17 cents.)

Also included is that electronic page-turner, "Teach Yourself Estate Planning in 24 Hours." Just the thing to warm a long winter's night. And Harvard Law professor Arthur Miller answers questions in various videos.

Like all such software, this Broderbund effort is at great pains to say it is no substitute for a real, fangs-out lawyer. There are probably two root motivations here, one being the truth that if a hostile lawyer has slithered into your life, the only recourse is to hire your own to slither right back. The other is that lawyers take a dim view of things that purport to do what they do at a fraction of the price.

So the following sentence should not be construed as offering legal advice: Paying the $29.99 for the program can save you a bundle on the everyday notices and business forms that pepper our lives. If the Request To Remove from Direct Mailing List form works even partially, it will be worth the price, for example.

Broderbund products are widely available at retail and online. Broderbund offers the product with a 90-day guarantee that says if you're not completely satisfied, they'll exchange it for a product of equivalent value or refund your money. A look down the list of forms in the product failed to discover a give-me-my-money-back form.

One other caveat, if you live in Louisiana, the estate planning documents aren't valid. (Napoleanic law still haunts the bayous.)


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