Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Estate Planning Attorneys

Artificial intelligence (AI) is in the beginning stages of a revolution.  For the better part of the last century, this technology saw little application outside of data analytics and computer algorithms.

Today, AI can replicate real communication with surprising ease.  ChatGPT, for instance, is known for its ability to draft essays and summarize long passages from a book in mere seconds, a boon for many a student. Recently, ChatGPT even passed the uniform bar exam on its first attempt. Which begs the question, will this technology replace estate planning attorneys?  If you ask ChatGPT yourself, you might be surprised.  We typed “I have a legal question” in the search bar, and nearly instantaneously ChatGPT responded, “Sure, I can try to help.  Please keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer, and my responses are not a substitute for professional legal advice.”

Still curious, we pressed on, and asked ChatGPT the following question:

QUESTION: Write two paragraphs about the impact that artificial intelligence is having on estate planning lawyers.

ChatGPT’s Response:

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the field of estate planning for lawyers, introducing transformative changes in how legal professionals approach their practice.  One significant impact is the streamlining of document analysis and drafting processes.  AI-powered tools can efficiently review large volumes of legal documents, identifying key clauses and potential issues in estate planning documents.  This not only accelerates the document review process but also enhances accuracy, reducing the likelihood of human errors that could have profound implications for clients.

Furthermore, AI is playing a crucial role in personalized and data-driven decision-making in estate planning.  Lawyers can leverage AI algorithms to analyze vast datasets, extracting valuable insights that inform strategic decisions for their clients.  This includes scenarios and potential tax implications, assessing the financial impact of various estate distribution scenarios, and recommending optimal wealth preservation strategies.  The integration of AI technologies in estate planning empowers lawyers to provide more comprehensive and tailored advice, ultimately ensuring that clients receive solutions aligned with their unique circumstances and financial goals.  As the legal landscape continues to embrace AI advancements, estate planning professionals are well-positioned to navigate complexities more efficiently and deliver enhanced services to their clients.”

ChatGPT may have a point, in that online estate planning programs and document drafting software can utilize artificial intelligence to streamline or automate the drafting process, making it more accessible and cost-effective for those on a budget.  However, what are the tradeoffs for such convenience and accessibility?  Limited guidance, and the absence of the expertise, level of customization, and personalized service that an experienced estate planning attorney can provide.

Estate planning, at its core, is a deeply personal engagement that requires a particular understanding not only of one’s clients as individuals, but also their assets, family dynamics, and goals for their intended beneficiaries.  Coupled with that understanding is a knowledge of the relevant and ever-changing federal and state laws derived from years of practice.  While ChatGPT may be helpful to answer questions or provide drafts of generic estate planning documents, non-lawyer users would almost need law degrees themselves to ask the appropriate prompts in order to produce accurate documents that accomplish what the client desires while simultaneously addressing not only probate and transfer tax ramifications, but also the applicability of other areas of the law, for example, matrimonial, corporate, and real estate law to name just a few.

AI may be able to support and supplement the services of estate planning attorneys but would be unable, in our opinion, to fully supplant estate planning attorneys.  Use of AI alone to craft an appropriate estate plan could result in a plan that does not dispose of an individual’s estate according to his or her wishes, does not minimize or eliminate applicable transfer taxes, and does not consider the nuances of the personal relationships among a client’s family members.  ChatGPT may be proficient at taking an exam, but the underlying technology is not presently capable of actual reasoning, providing human compassion, or utilizing creativity to address an individual client’s unique circumstances.

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