The practice of law and estate planning has changed a great deal over the past several decades. The “unified credit” arrived on the scene and then gave way to the “applicable exclusion” and increased from $600,000 to today’s $5 million. In addition to the changes in the law itself, the physical practice of law has changed dramatically. 40 years ago an IBM Selectric typewriter was the “state of the art” because it allowed some correction capability. The advent of the personal computer and word processing software has revolutionized the practice, allowing for much more sophisticated and complex documents. While many would bemoan the added complexity, it has allowed for documents to be tailored to the client’s unique situation and concerns. Documents which used to be only a few pages may now be dozens or hundreds of pages long.
But, there is hope for our forests yet. Today, many courts allow for electronic filing of documents, eliminating paper altogether. For example, here’s a link to New York’s electronic system: https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/HomePage. The IRS now encourages electronic filing of tax returns, http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.html?porlet=1. What’s next?
Well, it seems the changing face of law might be Facebook! Our friends North of the border in Canada now allow serving of court papers over Facebook on occasion. New Zealand also allows this. You can read more about this here: http://money.msn.com/top-stocks/post.aspx?post=c0a49b0e-9987-40b9-8444-e7991f42cbdc. Why might developments in New Zealand and Canada portend similar developments here? Canada and New Zealand share our historical roots as former British colonies. As a result, our legal systems are all based on the common law system. Perhaps “Facebook filing” may be in our future…
What do you think? Will U.S. courts ever allow for notifications or filing via Facebook? Do you think they should?
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Road, Suite 240
San Diego, CA 92124