If you have a current estate plan, or have ever read through common estate planning documents, then you have probably encountered what people refer to as “legal jargon”. These are terms that are unfamiliar, words that seem superfluous, or phrases that appear to be out of place. Is all this legal jargon really necessary? The simple answer is “yes”.
The legal system in the United States is a precedent based system, meaning in essence that case law builds on previous case law. For this reason, specific words, terms, and phrases become very important. Statutory law also plays a role in the law of estate planning, meaning that the words, terms and phrases used in a particular statute are also important. All of this comes together to form what we often refer to as “legal jargon”.
When an estate planning document is prepared, your estate planning attorney will use the legal jargon that is appropriate and necessary to convey your wishes and ensure that they are honored. Using the wrong word, adding or deleting a word, or misusing a term or phrase can completely change the legal significance. This, in turn, can threaten the success of your estate plan.
To make matters even more complicated, individual states may use different words, terms or phrases in their estate planning laws. It is for these reasons that using a “do-it-yourself” estate document found on the internet often fails. So the next time you read through an estate planning document prepared by your attorney and chuckle to yourself about all the strange legal jargon, know that your attorney included it to ensure that your estate plan is a success.