Online client intake for estate planning using HotDocs

The Sweet Spot – HotDocs Client Questionnaires

Wouldn’t it be great if your clients could answer your INTAKE QUESTIONNAIRE online, and you could use those answers, immediately, to create documents for them using HotDocs document assembly.  How much do you think this would cost?  The answer is less than you think.

HotDocs Document Services

With HotDocs Document Services you can send your clients a link to an on-line questionnaire.  You can then take the answers and download them to your HotDocs Desktop system.  Or, you can host your HotDocs templates on HDS in a private folder for use by your internal staff.  The cost could NOT be cheaper.  For as little as $100/month and 50 cents per client interview, this could be yours.   We have been retained by several firms to adapt paper questionnaires into online interviews.  The process is quite interesting. Once the firm realizes that interview is “smart” and “interactive”, the design changes dramatically.  Questions become shorter and more focused.  Irrelevant questions and details explanations drop out.  And, interesting enough, the number of actual questions DOUBLES in the interview, but the Client ONLY sees the ones relevant to his answers, so the questionnaire can be completed in 1/3 the time.

Steps for Creating a Questionnaire

The process of creating the questionnaire starts from two directions.  The first direction should be from your documents.  Analyze your documents to determine what information you need to create them.  In the case of Estate Planning, look what needs to be known to prepare a will, durable power of attorney, and various trust documents.  Create a spreadsheet which groups the data by subject area.  Ideally, you would start by automating those documents in HotDocs.

Then, examine which of those fields require attorney judgments (or advice) and which of them are merely data that you could ask your client to supply. For example, information about the Client, his or her spouse and children, as well as any interested parties would be great for an Intake Questionnaire.  Further, information about real property, bank accounts and major assets would be useful for planning and for dispositions.  You might include some preferences and goals which could guide the attorney in crafting the appropriate plan.  These can guide discussion as well as the documents.  Further, the questionnaire can also supply information directly to the client as they answer questions.

Benefits of Going Online

The benefit of doing the questionnaire as a template is multi-fold.  First of all, the development time is faster.  There is no need to build a form document; you can use an interview only (CMP) template with a computation script.  Second, there is no need to hire a web designer and give detailed layout instructions.  Third, if you change your mind on a question or prompt, or come up with a whole new line of questions, you just publish your template, updating the existing questionnaire.  Fourth, and best of all, you can now use the answers in a HotDocs Assembly, without retyping them, saving HOURS and HOURS of expensive paralegal time.  If you are on a fixed fee basis for estate plans, this is money in your pocket.

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