FamilyEstateDocs.com provides tools and software for financial and insurance professionals (our licensees). We provide a cloud based software application for our licensees to offer attorney drafted estate plans online to their clients and prospective clients. This letter is intended to provide additional information and details for any compliance review.
Legal Zoom pioneered the online legal document website twenty-one years ago, and the case law is settled in all 50 states for more than a decade. In addition, the case law allowing non-lawyers to perform secretarial or ministerial work (such as data entry) is also settled law in all 50 states (and was part of the basis for Legal Zoom’s victories). Our software was developed to conform to these rules, and our innovation has been providing an easy-to-use platform with a more expansive set of options for clients to craft a more customized estate plan than is available anywhere else online.
Internet and “Software as a Service” (SaaS) is now a well-established legal alternative in the 21st century as the modern version of the paper “fill in the blank” forms found in libraries and office supply stores of the 20th century. While LegalZoom was the first significant market maker, (and is now a multi-billion-dollar company providing legal documents in all 50 states) the industry is well established with many other online consumer legal service offerings (such as Rocket Lawyer, Nolo, LegalZoom, Wills &Trusts, and others).
University Law Schools, one being William and Mary and their Business Law Review Volume 12 (2020-2021), refer to these changing times as “A new era of legal services”. Legislation has passed stating that “software that generates legal documents based on a user’s responses to a legal questionnaire does not constitute the practice of law. Whether it’s accessibility, technology, pricing, or payment, legal service consumers are simply demanding technology and ignoring the supply of traditional law experience”.
Engineered Attorney Drafted Document Software:
The software running FamilyEstateDocs.com was developed over 12 years ago by software engineers collaborating with estate planning attorneys who drafted the questionnaire and document templates.
To offer the greatest possible customization options for clients’ individual needs while protecting and ensuring all parties are conforming to the established case-law regarding online legal documents; we have engineered our software platform so that all answers are “fill in the blank” or multiple choice. Neither licensees nor clients can write their own language into the legal documents, this is reserved solely to the estate planning attorneys.
The software acts at the specific instruction of the customer and records the customer’s original information verbatim, exactly as it is provided by the customer. The software does not exercise any judgment or discretion but operates automatically in the same fashion as a ‘mail merge’ program. It is not possible for the agent/advisor or any customer to insert their own language into the document templates. (This is one of the engineered protections against even “accidental” practice of law.)
The selections made by the client during the interview process correspond to pre-written legal language written for every possible combination of answers by the estate planning attorneys. This makes our system very easy to create comprehensive documents customized to the client needs while keeping the complexity “behind the scenes” and the legal language in the hands of the attorneys. It also saves clients’ money since the cost of the attorneys can be divided over thousands of users.
The software is comparable to what law firms use internally for their own staff to assemble legal documents, but with a step-by-step tutorial process without unnecessary legalese that educates the user on every item. This allows users with no prior estate knowledge to be able to complete the interview and create their own customized estate plan.
In addition, we have other features that aren’t available through traditional law firms. For instance, an electronic vault for easy and immediate access to the documents for updating purposes and a comprehensive trust funding kit. Most trust holders never properly fund their trusts, losing the greatest benefit, probate avoidance. Often this is due to ignorance, difficulty, or the expense (lawyers often charge $250+ per funding letter). Our kit will help clients generate their own funding documents for no additional charge and only a small investment of time.
Finally, on every page of the website, we provide notice to customers:
“This site, and the products available on this site, are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. You should consult with an attorney and tax advisor licensed to practice in your state for advice if you have questions about your specific circumstances.”
In addition to all the protections built into the software and processes, there are a number of forms available to our advisors and agents. One that is very popular for those assisting senior or disabled clients with data entry is our “Data Entry Authorization Form”. This legal form enables the agent/advisor to have their client confirm in writing the following:
I hereby certify that I have completed the provided interview questions myself, and that my answers are truthful and correct. I authorize ________________ (or their staff) to enter this information into the document templates on my behalf, and that any assistance he/she is providing is solely in a secretarial or ministerial capacity. He/She has not provided any legal advice or counseling, and has not selected which document(s) I am purchasing.
Technology & Security:
Our software platform is built on the AWS cloud (Amazon Web Services). This is the same infrastructure that is used by Fortune 500 companies, US Departments of State & Defense as well as their contractors. Our system infrastructure meets the following standards: CSA, ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, PCI DSS Level 1, SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3, HIPPA, SEC Rule 17a-4(f). Network firewalls built into Amazon VPC, and web application firewall capabilities in AWS WAF allow us to create private networks, and control access to instances and applications.
All data is encrypted in transit and at rest. Data in transit is encrypted via TLS across all services, RSA 4096 bits encryption (SHA256 with RSA) auto-rotated on a 90 day basis. Qualys Labs has independently rated given us an ‘A’ rating. Data at rest in the database and uploaded documents use the industry standard AES-256 encryption algorithm.
Data Sharing & Protecting Clients:
All information provided to us is owned by the clients & the licensees themselves. FamilyEstateDocs.com and our software provider do not share data except as required by law or to provide client requested services from vendors (e.g. credit card processing). WE DO NOT SELL, RENT, LEASE DATA NOR DO WE ALLOW ANY LICENSEE TO DO SO.
The online DIY legal forms industry is very crowded and dominated by a few large firms owned by “Silicon Valley” private equity firms and institutional investors (eg LegalZoom and Wills & Trusts). These firms invest millions with aggressive marketing to the public. The financial and insurance industry sectors are aware that many of these firms will then sell their customer’s information to outside vendors and our competitors who in turn attempt to sell competing financial products.
FamilyEstateDocs was established by financial professionals, for financial professionals, to protect our clients’ personal information and protect our client relationships. Our niche is to provide a place to refer clients to get estate plans easily and affordably that will not result in competitors bombarding them with solicitations.
In today’s world of online informational services and especially since COVID 19, our clients ask us about what is needed to get their estate in order. The pandemic “kicked the sleeping dog” with respect to people are aware that their lives can “turn on a dime” making estate planning one of the “hottest” topics on people’s mind. The “Silicon Valley” legal document companies are preying on this vulnerability to capture our client’s data. FamilyEstateDocs was create to protect clients, not only by providing comprehensive estate plans, but also to protect their relationship with their financial professional.