The Internet is such an interesting place. One of the most powerful things about it is that it’s lowered the bar for people to self-publish. It used to be that you could trust something that was published, due in large part to the high barrier to entry to publishing and a tacit agreement among publishers to have a certain journalistic integrity.
Unfortunately, that’s all changed with the advent of the Internet. Anyone with a blog, or a video camera, can become an instant journalist and newsmaker. Sometimes, it works out well as we saw with the coverage of the Iranian elections, but more often there are opportunistic people, with low morals, who end up snookering people looking for a little information and news to fill their day, or more importantly – who take to the Internet to do important legal work. Take this lady here….
She recently made a splash as Jenny – The Dry-Erase Girl. She quit her job in an unusual fashion – by posting photos of her using a dry-erase board to give her reasons, including outing her boss as having bad-breath and spending his days playing Farmville on Facebook. Funny, right? Except, all untrue. “Jenny” is Elyse Porterfield, an actress who was hired to perpetrate this hoax.
Look, no one got hurt by this – it was a fairly harmless hoax. But, lots of people accepted it as true, simply because it was posted on the Internet. The news of her “quitting” circulated the web with many people latching onto it as a real news story and sharing the information (as true) with their friends and loved ones. On the other hand, you might have heard about the JetBlue flight attendant who quit his job in his own spectacular fashion…that one was true. How do you tell the difference?
The same is going on with less sensational issues, like estate planning and legal services. There are plenty of people who are holding themselves out as the providers of legal services and legal solutions. Except – they are who they say they are only by virtue of what they write about themselves on the Internet. It’s a formula that can create a real mess – especially in the realm of estate planning where the effectiveness of the plan is known only in moments of crisis or after you die – situations where there is no time to cure the problems.
If you insist on doing your estate planning on the Internet with a company like LegalZoom or RocketLawyer (or even Suze Orman’s WillMaker), at arm’s length and without the investment in creating a real relationship with an actual person (where you can judge competence and reliability for yourself), please understand you are taking a risk that the company isn’t what they say they are (unless they finally start saying they are a for-profit enterprise hell bent on making money), the documents may not do what you think they’ll do. There will be no one around to complain to when these companies and fly-by-night solutions disappear and your loved ones are left holding the bag with an estate plan that does something you’d never want.
On a less ominous note – enjoy this clip – it illustrates my point very well.
Posted by Victor Medina, Medina Law Group, LLC