Monday, December 12, 2005

Choosing Trust Software

Producing quality documents is critical to an estate planning practice, so I have been spending a lot of time evaluating trust creation software. I started by searching the web for "lawyer trust software" and got a few hits, including Daniel Evans' helpful listing (http://evans-legal.com/dan/wtt-new.html, but one caveat: the page was last updated in May 2004, so the list contains several dead links).

The serious contenders were priced from $229 to $3,500 or more, plus a variety of flavors of annual licenses, software assurance, and add-ons. Two vendors offered fully-functioning trial versions (National Lawforms and Fore! Trust Software), and most of the others had online product demos that either walked through a typical trust creation or at least showed off their product's high points.

After all the downloading, testing, viewing, etc., I have selected Fore! Trust Software ($995, plus $250 for annual updates after the first year). A key benefit is that the Fore! package includes LexisNexis HotDocs software, a powerful automation environment that retails for $650 on its own. Fore provides customer interview forms keyed to the data entry in the software, and customizes the online questions automatically based on the answers you input. I was able to create an 80-page trust package inside of 20 minutes using the software.

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Thanks to Jonathan Stein of The Practice, who stopped by and posted some great cost-saving ideas for new lawyers. Also, came across an interesting site for law-practice technology issues: TechnoLawyer. The site hosts newsgroups, but also publishes a host of weekly emails with hardware/software reviews, issues pertaining to intellectual property, news issues and answers to reader-submitted questions. Only checked it out briefly, but it passes my first test (it's free). I'll report back later if it turns out to be good or bad enough to warrant mention.

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