While it may not be an option now, Walmart stores across the country might one day offer customers the chance to buy a quickly made will, or receive other low cost or simple legal services. Last year, several Walmart stores in the Toronto, Canada area began offering basic legal services to customers through a partnership with a Canadian law firm. The law firm leased space from the Walmart stores and offered Walmart customers a variety of services, such as the drafting of a basic will and the notarization of documents.
Though no Walmart stores in the United States currently offer such services, or have partnerships with law firms that provide legal advice to customers, it is possible that such services could arise in the future. If, and when, that happens, what do you need to know about such low-cost legal services?
Wills, Walmart, and Attorneys
There are some significant legal hurdles to companies like Walmart giving out legal advice to customers. First of all, in order to give people legal advice for compensation, a person must be a licensed attorney in the state in which they wish to provide such advice. Second, licensed attorneys cannot start businesses with people who are not attorneys if that business gives out legal advice.
So, Walmart itself cannot give out legal advice to customers, but, as it did in Canada, it might be possible for law firms to open offices in Walmart stores if they lease or rent the space.
Some of the services offered in the Canadian Walmart stores are relatively simple, such as the notarization of documents. A notary has to be licensed by the state just like an attorney, but notaries cannot give legal advice. Notaries are only licensed to formally recognize a person’s signature and notarize official documents.
Wills, on the other hand, are often much more complicated. A basic last will and testament has to meet some foundational legal rules as required by each state. These rules are not incredibly complex, and are relatively straightforward to apply, so drafting a document that complies with these simple requirements is typically not difficult.
On the other hand, just because state law may not require something, that doesn’t mean your will is, or should be, a simple document. There are numerous clauses, conditions, and caveats that people commonly include in their wills that are not directly addressed by state law. While experienced attorneys know how to draft wills that meet the unique needs of each of their clients, simply creating a simple will that only meets the basic requirements is usually not enough.
Further, a good estate plan is much bigger than a simple will. Estate plans include a variety of documents, and creating one document alone is not sufficient to have a comprehensive plan.