3 Steps to Get Documents Ready for HotDocs Automation

Step 1

Decide which documents should be included in the document automation system.  The question that needs to be answered is “What documents do I use often enough to warrant automation?”   Factors to consider when answering this question include 1) how often the document is prepared, 2) the difficulty of creating the completed document, and 3) the advantage that could be provided by having a completely automated system versus a system that contains only a few documents.  As REAL gains experience with your particular document style and automation needs, the time needed to prepare an automated document decreases.  This means that including more documents in the automated system will usually equate to a lower cost per document.  More complex documents are a good thing to include in your system, even if they are not prepared extremely often.  Automating complex documents allows your associates and paralegals to create quality documents for you, which saves your time for more important tasks.

Step 2

Decide which type of template each included document should become.  Possible choices include interview, form, and word processor templates.  Each document should be carefully analyzed to determine how it fits into the overall automation scheme and assigned a template type.  Possible choices include an interview, form, or word processor template.  Interview templates are commonly created from intake forms.  They are used to gather information and do not result in a final document.  Form templates allow the user to change only certain aspects of the documents.  The user can tab through the fields of the form and fill in needed information but cannot make changes to the underlying white space.  Word processor documents can be in Word or WP formats.  They are the most dynamic document type and allow the end-user full control of the resulting product.

Step 3

The last preparatory step in the automation process is to mark up your documents in a manner that illustrates what should be automated.  When marking up documents, each paragraph should be examined and marked in a manner that tells us which language should be optional and how the completed document should appear.  A common practice is to mark optional phrases in brackets or place optional text in red and add the word OPTIONAL at the top of the paragraph.  Date and text formats should be indicated in the markup as well.  We at REAL are willing to help you with this process on any level desired and can make recommendations based on what we have seen in the past.  We can also provide samples of marked up document to show you what others have done.  We do recommend that you mark up most of the documents yourself.  Doing this yourself ensures that your automated documents perfectly fit your needs.

EXAMPLE

This is one example of how to mark up your documents.  You can either mark the document up in your word processor or you can print copies of the document and mark up the document using a highlighter and notes.

For this example, let’s suppose that a decision has been made to automate your firm’s standard will.  Further, you have decided to retain its qualities as a Word document and, hence, would like it transformed into a MS Word template.  Here is a copy of how your original will might start out:

I, CLARK CLIENT, a resident of 123 Some Way, Eagle Mountain, UT 84043, do make, publish and declare this to be my LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT and I hereby revoke all Wills and Codicils heretofore made by me.

SECTION 1IDENTIFICATION

1.1.      SPOUSE – My spouse’s name is CONNIE CLIENT.  All references in this Will to my spouse are to said spouse

1.2.      CHILDREN – I have two (2) children, SAM CLIENT and CHRIS CLIENT.  All references in this Will to my children are to said named children and to children hereafter born to or adopted by me and to any child of mine in gestation at the time of my death.

To mark-up this document, start at the top of the document and work your way down through the page. The first sentence has some need of automation, as several words will change depending on the client.  The sections that will change from client to client are highlighted below.

I, CLARK CLIENT, a resident of 123 Some Way, Eagle Mountain, UT 84043, do make, publish and declare this to be my LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT and I hereby revoke all Wills and Codicils heretofore made by me.

We would mark the highlighted sections for automation by replacing the highlighted text with an indicator of how this should be automated.  The same paragraph is shown below in a marked up format.  The capitalization of “NAME OF CLIENT” tells REAL to have the client’s name inserted in all capital letters.

I, [NAME OF CLIENT], a resident of [Address of Client], do make, publish and declare this to be my LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT and I hereby revoke all Wills and Codicils heretofore made by me.

This paragraph is now ready for automation.  The indicators will instruct REAL to replace the Name of the Client and Address of the client with variables.  The variables will dynamically gather information from the end-user and insert the information into the document.

Now lets look at the next paragraph.

1.1.      SPOUSE – My spouse’s name is CONNIE CLIENT.  All references in this Will to my spouse are to said spouse.

One way to mark it up is:

1.1.      SPOUSE – My spouse’s name is [NAME OF SPOUSE].  All references in this Will to my spouse are to said spouse.

The problem with leaving this paragraph like this is that it does not tell REAL what to do for single clients or clients with an unmarried partner.  One way to add these instructions is to include text at the start of the paragraph with more specific instructions.  Different possible options for the paragraph’s wording can also be included in the instructions or by using slashes within the paragraph’s text to indicate different options.  In the example paragraph, the word “spouse” should become partner as needed.  For example:

[PARAGRAPH 1.1 – ONLY INCLUDE IF THE CLIENT IS MARRIED OR HAS A PARTNER]

1.1.      [SPOUSE/PARTNER]- My [spouse/partner]’s name is [NAME OF SPOUSE].  All references in this Will to my [spouse/partner] are to said [spouse/partner].

Most of the children paragraph can be marked-up using the previous two examples as guidance:

[PARAGRAPH 1.2 – ONLY INCLUDE IF THE CLIENT HAS CHILDERN]

1.2.      [CHILD/CHILDREN] – I have [number of children:nine] ([number of children:9]) [child/children], [NAME OF CHILDREN].  All references in this Will to my [child/children] are to said named [child/children] and to children hereafter born to or adopted by me and to any child of mine in gestation at the time of my death.

Notice that the actual number of children has been replaced by the text “number of children” followed by an indicator of how the number should be formatted.   Using the number “nine” is a generic way to indicate any number in HotDocs.  For example, if a client had three children, the above formatting would tell to REAL to insert the first sentence of the paragraph into the document as: I have three (3) children ….

Although this mark-up is a good start on the children’s paragraph, the process is not quite complete, as not every client wants to include a paragraph about after-born children.  This should be made optional.  The final mark-up for the children’s paragraph considering these factors might look like this:

1.3.      [CHILD/CHILDREN] – I have [number of children:nine] ([number of children:9]) [child/children], [NAME(S) OF CHILDREN].  All references in this Will to my [child/children] are to said named [child/children] [OPTIONAL: and to children hereafter born to or adopted by me and to any child of mine in gestation at the time of my death].

The same procedure can be done to add stepchildren, grandchildren, and even a paragraph about any disinherited children.

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