5 Typos that Could Affect Client Trust

Feb 18, 2022 10:00:00 AM



Mistakes happen in all forms of writing, including the drafting of estate planning documents. Even a small typographical error can have big consequences for you and your clients. If these errors are not rectified before the documents are signed, they can hurt your credibility with clients or worse—lead to malpractice claims. 

On a positive note, your ability to produce error-free estate planning documents can bolster your clients’ trust in you and lead to enthusiastic referrals. Read on to discover five of the costliest, but avoidable, mistakes, as well as how to eliminate them.

1. Misspelled Names

Seeing your name spelled wrong can be annoying, but an incorrect name on a legal document could be more consequential than a mere annoyance. It can lead to challenges to the client’s intent and even the validity of the entire estate planning document.

To illustrate the importance of a missing letter, the misspelling of Samuel Allsopp’s Arctic Ale led to the sale of a rare bottle for $304 on eBay when it should have fetched half a million dollars.

Even if you are careful to spell surnames correctly, first names can present a challenge and should be double-checked. Many names such as Alan, Brandon, Jonathan, Katelyn, Sandra, and Sherri can be spelled in a variety of ways, and the modern trend of creative spellings for children’s names brings numerous variations to any number of monikers. Further, the potential for inconsistencies increases when a name appears in multiple places throughout a document or in several documents.

Automated document software such as Wealth Docx® is extremely helpful in reducing these types of errors, because you only need to type a name once. The name you entered will then appear correctly throughout multiple documents. Similarly, if you discover that a name you already entered is spelled differently, you only need to correct it in one place; the correct spelling will then populate in all documents.

2. Incorrect Addresses and Legal Descriptions

Mistakes on mailing addresses and legal descriptions are common typographical errors. Numerals can be mistaken or transposed on house numbers, ZIP codes, acreage amounts, or book, page, and lot numbers. Real property has corresponding parcel numbers that are several digits long. Just one digit appearing incorrectly would cause a snafu at the recorder’s office. In addition, a mistake on a mailing address or property’s legal description could result in the misidentification of an asset as being separate or community property or intended for specific distribution. It can also make providing timely notice to appropriate persons during a trust or estate administration difficult. 

As you gather address and property information during your representation of a client, you can enter, update, and correct these details in Wealth Docx and be confident that they will populate consistently as needed throughout the client’s documents. 

3. Including or Omitting the Word “Not”

“Not” is one of the smallest but most important words in the English language. In estate planning documents, the inclusion or omission of the word “not” results in a 180-degree change in the client’s desired outcome. If the word “not” is missing from or erroneously appears in a document, it may be difficult to argue what the client meant after they pass away without additional evidence or context to support the client’s intent, and there is no guarantee that a court would honor the client’s wishes.

This is an instance in which an automated document software like Wealth Docx can provide reliable language for countless drafting scenarios. Drafters can even craft and save customized clauses for specific purposes and reuse those clauses in future documents to ensure consistency.

4. Misidentifying Beneficiaries

Getting beneficiaries’ names right is not always easy. Family members may regularly go by unexpected names. For example, a man who is always called “Pat” may have “Patrick” as his middle name, as he may not like being called by his first name. Other family members may have the same names, where the omission of “Jr.” or “III” would cause assets to be distributed to a different family member than the client intended. It could also leave everyone wondering who was the intended beneficiary.

The names of businesses and charities can also be confusingly similar. Extra attention should be paid to ensuring their accuracy, particularly when using additional identifying information, such as tax identification numbers.   

Reviewing documents with your clients is a good habit to establish, though lengthy estate planning documents can feel overwhelming to clients. Clients’ reviews can be made easier by providing summaries of the trust agreement and lists of important family and fiduciary names. In addition to providing another set of eyes, any mistakes in the names of people and entities are likely to jump off the page for the client. Wealth Docx simultaneously generates these types of summaries with clients’ legal documents to support a thorough review process. 

5. Incorrect Financial Numbers

When it comes to financial figures, every digit and comma is important. Just take the case of more than 1,000 travelers who secured first-class tickets from Asia to Canada for $125 when the correct price should have been around $10,000.

Whether expressed in dollar amounts, fractions, or percentages, the numbers involved in an estate plan must be documented with precision. If a zero is accidentally included or omitted, the entire estate plan could be thrown off the tracks. For added clarity when dealing with dollar amounts, the two zeroes representing cents (.00) can be confusing and should just be omitted.

Automated drafting software like Wealth Docx is designed to avoid issues like these by using smart prompts and guiding user input. 

Avoid Typos in Estate Planning Documents

Whether you are a new or experienced attorney, an automated software solution is the best way to draft documents consistently, reduce the risk of errors, and build your clients’ confidence in you. 

The traditional method of drafting documents involves using a word processing program like Microsoft Word. New client documents are prepared by copying and pasting text. When an error is discovered, an attorney must use the “Find and Replace” feature. Fixing mistakes that way takes a long time and often misses errors.

An automated document system such as Wealth Docx provides variety of ways to minimize errors, including the following:

  • Single-entry function. Contact and other information is entered once during your client interview or intake process and then automatically populates throughout the documents you create for the client. 
  • Scenarios. Common plans can be saved in the software, so client situations like “married without children” or “blended families” can easily be used again.
  • Add a clause. Like scenarios, you can save common clauses for future use.
  • Customized default settings. Simplify the drafting process even further by personalizing the settings to include document- and trust-naming conventions, term preferences, Uniform Trust Code provisions, and statutory references.

Find out how Wealth Docx can accomplish this by clicking here. Contact us today to schedule a demo.

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