TrustLawyer

Plain English

We speak your language

“Lawyer-ese” may not make clear to your executor, trustee and beneficiaries know what you really intend.

If you have a will or a trust document, take a look at. Is it clear to you exactly how your assets will be distributed? Most legal documents are drafted for other lawyers and judges. Ours are drafted for our clients.

A document doesn’t have to be in legalese to be enforceable. Plain English avoids many ambiguities which can lead to misunderstandings and litigation.

Why don’t most lawyers write in plain English?

We spend our time in law school primarily reading court decisions, statutes and documents written by generations of lawyers. A lot of will and trust language hasn’t really changed since the eighteenth century. It is easy to follow that path and “write like lawyers.” It’s harder to express legal concepts with precision and, at the same time, produce readable documents.

Can you give me an example of Plain English drafting?

Absolutely. Here is a trust provision for children drafted by a major law firm:

“The trustees shall pay or apply to or for the benefit of any of such children, and to the exclusion of them, so much of the net income and principal of the trust property as the trustees in their discretion deem advisable for the health, support, maintenance and education of any such children.”

That’s one sentence ! Take a breath and see what we do:

We wrote this:

“My trustee may, at any time, distribute assets to one or more of my children. My trustee may refrain from making distributions. My trustee may distribute assets that he or she, in his or her absolute discretion, believes advisable for my children’s support and educational expenses. Those terms are defined in ARTICLE SIX. My trustee shall have the further discretion to distribute assets to one or more children and not to others. My trustee may determine: when, how and whether to make distributions, the specific purposes for making them and the specific assets to be distributed.”

Which example expresses intention better? Which is easier to read?