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Probate & Property

[Note: This column was originally published by the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the American Bar Association in Probate & Property, Vol. 14, No. 4 (July/August 2000).]

Computerized Document Drafting

By Daniel B. Evans, Technology-Probate Editor
Probate & Property

Past columns have covered systems sold with "pre-programmed" forms for drafting wills, trusts and other estate planning documents. (See "Windows Software for Estate Drafting," July/August 1998, and "More New Document Drafting Systems," March/April 1999. Also see the note at the end of this column about Internet access to past columns.) This column considers some of the tools available for a law firm that chooses a "do-it-yourself" approach for some or all of its computerized document drafting needs.

What Kind of Software?

A firm that decides to automate its own forms must consider what type of software is most suitable to its needs. Several different types of software are potential candidates.

Which Software to Use?

Many lawyers get all wrapped up in the choice of what software to use, although this may be the least significant of all of the decisions to make. The selection of software is often insignificant because the most important and time consuming part of the process is the collection and organization of the forms to be automated. Well organized forms can usually be automated within a number of different systems. Also, the most important feature of drafting software may be the ability of the software to work with other software that the law firm uses, such as word processing and case management software. That compatibility may be so important that the other features of the software are irrelevant.

Managing the System

Even if you choose the "right" software, you will still run into problems if you do not manage your system well. 

Document Drafting Software

The following programs are document drafting "engines" or "shells" that lawyers can use to automate their own forms. Some of these publishers may also have pre-programmed forms for sale that can be adapted by the user.

Agility Software
(617) 621-7099

AtLaw Software
(800) 828-5154

InterActive Professional Software
(888) 554-2542

HotDocs and Capsoft
Capsoft Development
(Lexis Publishing)
(800) 500-3627

Intercon Associates, Inc.
(800) 422-3880

Smart Words 
The Technology Group, Inc. 
(410) 576-2040

Eidelman Associates 
(734) 769-1500

Want to look up past columns? For the last four years, the Section has put the text of columns on the Internet as they were published. An index of past columns, and the software covered by those columns, is now available through the Technology and Economics (K-2) Committee, at

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