A nice day today, eh?
In my work (and life), I want to be clear, thoughtful, and straightforward.
I want you — and your family members or others — to more fully understand your documents.
Preparing legal documents is a technical subject. It should be as precise as reasonable, given the time constraints.
Because Massachusetts has an estate tax some documents need tax provisions. These tax-related terms are dense and esoteric.
Other than these tax-related provisions, I want to cut needless words. That make reading legal documents difficult. Even impossible to comprehend. I don't always succeed. But I have this attitude.
Likely, my documents are plainER, not plain.
Plain English seeks to
PLAIN ENGLISH IN LAW: BACKGROUND
Lawyers' are notorious for writing in a complicated way. And full of needless words and phrases.
For many years (centuries), the public has hated it.
In recent decades, legal scholars and attorneys have also seen this problem.
I've been reading about the plain English subject for 15+ years. And working daily to improve my writing and communication skills.
Because like most people, I don't enjoy reading legal documents. Almost all need strong edit to be more readable.
Modern Plain English approach: Garner and Adams
Bryan A. Garner is the leading advocate for a change to a more direct legal writing style. He's an attorney and author of over 20 books.
His latest book is 'Garner's Guidelines for Drafting & Editing Contracts.' (2019). I loved reading it.
While wills and trusts are not contracts, they come pretty close.
An illustration of his approach:
Lawyers who use the words 'said' or 'shall' in just about every sentence are misguided. Because shall only means 'has a duty to'. Nothing else. Doesn't mean 'in the future WILL.'
This example is the tip of the iceberg.
Another book I enjoyed was Kenneth Adams' 'Adams on Contract Drafting.' He is also an attorney.
Adams posits we use seven types of language in contracts. And each type has a different, particular function to achieve.
One type is language of 'authorization.'
Another is language of 'obligation'. And so on.
He tells us lawyers should know our aim when we use words. I work in the Cambridge - Acton area of Massachusetts. Clients are well educated and may want to (almost) understand the documents. And want clear explanations.
Here's an article in The Economist on plain English. Another from the New York Times. Both applaud the approach.
In summary, if you and others don't read a document because it is too dense and poorly written, then understanding it is impossible. This can lead to problems.
Finally, just because lawyers in the past used both the French and English versions of the same word we don't need to and should not.
I'm Joel Bernstein, an estate planning attorney with over 30 years of experience. I use plain English to help you understand wills, trusts, and the other documents you need to protect your loved ones and your estate.
Most middle-aged people aren’t ready for their inevitable death. We make estate planning simple, affordable, and quick. So people can live in peace, knowing their affairs are in order.