BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU SHOP FOR LEGAL ADVICE

Written by Jim Worthington on April 7, 2019

The old adage that you get what you pay for came to mind a couple of times recently. The first time was when a widow posted a question on social media about how to recover her husband’s vehicle from impound when her name wasn’t on the title. Many people answered her question, but I didn’t see a single correct answer. Some people advised her to use a power of attorney. But, the powers under that instrument do not survive death. So, that advice was just plain wrong. Another person, who claimed to work in the estate administration area, came closer by noting that the probate court would need to be involved. But, while the question specified that the Louisville police had impounded the car, it did not specify that the couple were Kentucky residents. The process to be followed would depend on the state of residence. Even assuming they were Kentucky residents, the answer is a little more involved than simply saying the court would be involved. The extent of the court’s involvement would depend on the total value of assets in the husband’s sole name and the amount of any preferred creditors’ claims. If the total assets in the husband’s name were less than the sum of $15,000.00 plus the preferred creditors’ claims, the surviving spouse would be able to petition to dispense with administration. That court procedure usually doesn’t even require the lawyer or client to appear in court.

The second time the adage popped into my head, I had been asked to comment ona pre-nuptial agreement that had been downloaded from a free internet site. It did not include disclosures of the engaged couple’s assets nor did it acknowledge the legal rights associated with marriage that the couple would be giving up. If the agreement was signed as it was presented to me and if it was challenged by one of the couple during a divorce or after the other’s death, I would much rather have the case attacking than defending it.

There may well be some substitutes for a lawyer’s services that do the job. I have even linked to a flowchart helping non-lawyers determine when a sophisticated online service might work to prepare their will. A free, online tool or a social media post answered by non-lawyers, however, will not substitute for the advice of an experienced lawyer.