Can AI Write My Will?

The day my kids were playing outside and shouted into the air “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast,” I realized that I have unknowingly embraced the convenience of artificial intelligence or “AI.”  While Alexa has certainly made finding the weather forecast and answering if moose are vegetarians easier, it has me thinking about other areas of my life where AI may sneak in.

Every day, I talk to people about the importance of Wills, Powers of Attorney documents, Trusts, Marital Property Agreements and other estate planning documents, so of course, that’s where my question about AI went.  I created a ChatGPT account and asked it some questions.  If you aren’t familiar with ChatGPT, it’s web-based AI, where you type in a question, and it gives you an answer.  Abracadabra.

The first task: what do I ask it?  I wanted to think about what someone with average knowledge about estate planning would ask, so my first question was “I need a will.”  Spoiler alert, I kind of liked the first part of the answer, which said:

Creating a will is an important legal document that outlines your wishes for the distribution of your assets and the care of your dependents after your death. While I can provide you with some general information and guidance, I strongly recommend consulting with a qualified attorney or using a reputable online legal service to create a will that complies with the specific laws in your jurisdiction and addresses your unique circumstances. Here are the basic steps to get started…

The first step was “gather information” – which is exactly what I tell my clients!   The next step said, “Draft the will” – that scared me.  So, my next prompt: “Draft my will.”  This is where AI spit out a Will where you would essentially “fill in the blanks.”  It started with a statement that said, “I strongly recommend consulting with an attorney to create a will.”  AI and I agree on that!

Here is why I think an attorney is important to help you write your Will, rather than using AI or some other “self-help” option:

    1. The goal of a good Will is never to use it. At McCarty, our goal is to make sure your assets pass to your heirs quickly and efficiently, which usually means making plans to avoid probate.  A Will is directions for Probate, so while you certainly need a Will, our goal is to create and advise on alternative methods to transfer your assets to your heirs.  AI cannot give you legal advice about these alternative methods.
    2. A Will is only ONE of the documents you need, and AI doesn’t tell you that. What happens if you become incapacitated?  A Will does not address that.  What do you need to do to avoid probate?  A Will doesn’t do that either.  What if you have minor heirs?  The AI Will didn’t have provisions for that.
    3. Wills have “technical” requirements to make them legal, which may vary state to state. The end of the AI Will said “[Notary Public’s Seal and Signature, if required]” – it does not know enough to make sure that your Will meets legal requirements.  AI cannot facilitate having your Will signed with witnesses or notarized by a Notary Public. When you have an Attorney assist you with your Will and other estate planning documents, we can ensure any legal requirements are met and have the necessary witnesses and notary present for signing.
    4. When it comes to estate planning, one size does not fit all, and I think AI’s Will is too generic. While AI’s Will might work to instruct probate on how to distribute your assets to responsible adult heirs without any special needs, it can’t help you instruct probate on how to make certain your money or assets are protected for your minor children, any heirs with special needs, or heirs who are irresponsible with money.

So, is AI cool?  Yes!  Can it work to create a Will?  Maybe.  Can an attorney do better?  YES!  Our job is to listen to your specific needs and goals to create a plan that fits you, while AI can only answer the very specific question you’ve asked. I wonder what question my kids will think of asking Alexa next?

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Sara practices in the areas of estate planning, guardianship, estate settlement and probate. She often serves as Personal Representative or Trustee on adversarial probate and trust matters and as a Guardian ad Litem, representing the best interests of individuals declared incompetent by the Court, elderly, disabled, minors and others needing representation.

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