I can’t help but wonder if Arizona paralegal Susan Faris is a harbinger of the way affordable, basic legal services may be accessible to everyone in the future.

The Phoenix Business Journal featured Faris and her new startup business, The Estate Plan Store®, in a recent profile:

Susan Faris spent more than two decades working in the field of law, mostly as a paralegal, before she decided to open her own business.

She got the idea for the Estate Store more than five years ago, but didn’t take the plunge until October 2010. She spent nearly a year developing a business plan and preparing to strike out on her own.

The Estate Store offers preparation of a number of end-of-life documents, such as wills and testaments, living wills and medical powers of attorney.

In case you’re getting excited about using your many decades of paralegal experience to start a business providing basic legal documents to the public, hold your horses. You have to live in one of the few states that allows certified non-attorney legal document preparers (LDPs) to “provide document preparation assistance and services to individuals and entities not represented by an attorney,” such as Arizona.

The Estate Plan Store® has a well-organized, informative website at http://www.estateplanstore.com/. The business offers Arizona residents access to seven basic legal documents created by attorneys, including a Last Will and Testament and a Durable Power of Attorney. Clients pay as little as $295 for the entire package, and can provide information online or in person.

Faris states via her website that her goal is to provide basic estate documents to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them:

Susan, an Arizona native, found her calling at a law firm specializing in estate planning and probate. She noticed that many Arizonans lacked a will or other components of an estate plan that are vital in an emergency. She also witnessed the legal battles that ensued when rightful heirs were denied protection, or when the wishes of the deceased weren’t spelled out legally, among many other scenarios. Much of the stress, pain and legal costs could have been avoided with the proper documentation. She felt strongly that money shouldn’t be a barrier to protecting one’s assets and family.

Practical Paralegalism congratulates Susan Faris on the start of her new business venture. What do you think? Will legal document preparers ever become available to the public in all 50 states?

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