We’ve all heard the stories about how artificial intelligence, especially new tools like ChatGPT, is taking over the world, and possibly our jobs. A recent article in the New York Times focused on clients’ views as to whether they would put their faith in AI to give them financial advice instead of paying their financial advisors for that information. Many of those interviewed for the article felt that ChatGPT might provide some general helpful information, but they would still rely on their financial advisors for more specific advice, at least for the time being. The article noted that there are still bugs in the system, which could lead to clients getting incorrect information if they relied solely on AI for their financial needs.
AI in Estate Planning
Have estate planning practitioners been faced with clients who are moving to AI for their estate planning needs? Not yet, says Craig Hersch, founder of The Freedom Practice and senior partner at the Sheppard Law Firm in Fort Myers, Fla. Hersch noted that none of his clients have brought up using AI for their estate planning. He opines that AI won’t replace most law firms that create estate plans for clients who are suburban wealthy up to uber-wealthy. It may take out the lower end of estate planning from practitioners much the same way that TurboTax and its competitors dominate that segment of the income tax preparation market. But that doesn’t mean that firms can’t use AI to their advantage. He believes that law firms that understand how to use AI as an advanced tool, much like when word processing became ubiquitous, will dominate those that don’t. Those that learn how to use this new tool effectively will dominate and eventually drive those that don’t out of business.
In a recent article for Trusts & Estates, Imaan Moughal, an associate at Manice Budd & Baggett, LLP in New York City and an adjunct professor of law at Hofstra Law School in Hempstead, N.Y. laid out the ways in which estate planning attorneys can use to ChatGPT and other AI tools to improve their practices, while acknowledging the limitations of those tools. For example, she noted that practitioners may use ChatGPT to analyze legal documents and help with their legal research, but it can’t handle complex legal issues that require in-depth knowledge of state-specific laws or recent legal developments. Moughal agrees with one professional in the New York Times article who said that it’s too early to do away with live professionals like estate planners and financial advisors and that we’ll need some kind of transition period where humans and AI will work together.
Another recent article in Reuters starkly highlights the ethical issues that may arise when attorneys rely solely on ChatGPT for their legal research. The piece describes a case in which a personal injury attorney used ChatGPT to conduct legal research and, based on that research, ended up citing six non-existent court decisions (created whole cloth from thin air by ChatGPT) in his brief. That attorney now faces a sanctions hearing. The article points out that the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct require attorneys to provide competent representation and be up to date on current technology, but they must also ensure that the technology they use provides accurate information.
Embrace the Future
AI isn’t going away and will likely become more common in our personal and professional lives. Both estate-planning attorneys and financial advisors should familiarize themselves with the capabilities of AI and determine how best to use it in their practices.