Dealing with Irrelevant Answered Variables in HotDocs

Irrelevant answered variables in HotDocs can have their consequence.  This blog notes the problem, its consequences and some solutions.

HotDocs is very friendly, as programs go, in dealing with “unanswered” data.  HotDocs gives you the option, if it doesn’t have sufficient data to fill in a variable or figure out an IF Expression, to display (1) Nothing, (2) A line, (3) [Variable Name] or (4) *** Variable Name ***.  This friendliness, has some consequences.

As recently posted on the HotDocs list, one consequence is that if a field “is answered” and stored in the answer file, but not relevant to a particular set of interview choices, that answer will still be used in the assembly.  The result will be that “irrelevant client data” will show up in the document.

The solution to this problem is to properly nest variables and conditions.  This is not as easy as it seems.  In a complex template, the web of dependencies and conditions can be difficult to track down.  Good dialog scripting and organization can help, but it can take some time to hunt down the proper conditions.  More often, you can over conditionalize a variable, and whole sections that should be relevant will not come in.  Because the “interview script” and the “template” are independent objects in the assembly system, both have to be separately validated and scripted.