Time and again I see ads, schemes, and mechanisms for people to obtain access to and prepare legal documents such as wills, deeds, corporate and business documents, leases, contracts, divorce documents and the like without the benefit of professional legal advice.
For those who abhor the idea of paying a lawyer for professional advice and assistance in such matters, mission accomplished.
And I am sure that some of those who operate in this fashion manage to do so without unforeseen future problems.
I also know from personal experience that some who do so learn the hard way that an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure, and many would have been better off seeking legal advice to make sure things were done right the first time. It’s always easier to leave toothpaste in the tube than to put it back after it has been squirted out.
Subtle, inexact, erroneous and overlooked terms, language, clauses and terminology in legal documents can have disastrous and unintended consequences down the road for the unaware.
Forming a trust without properly funding it can defeat the purpose.
Writing a contract without specific important provisions to protect the parties in the event of default can make enforcement of one’s rights in a court of law down the road less effective and more expensive, or even futile, when things go bad.
Inartfully or improperly drafted or executed wills or deeds can be completely void, or in some instances, create consequences that were not intended, desired, or understood.
Failure to follow up with mandatory statutory formalities and requirements after the formation of a business entity can lead to a host of problems.
Using even a very well conceived and artfully drafted document can be problematic if it is the wrong document for the situation.
The same holds true for the failure to act. Take for instance a seemingly healthy, happy-go-lucky individual who thinks they have many years to live, has accumulated some assets, but has done little or nothing in the way of considering or planning what might happen in the event of their untimely demise. Many times I have seen this, and it is always disappointing when the result is unquestionably one the dearly departed would not have wanted.
As I say, sometimes problems will not arise from skipping the process of seeking the assistance of legal counsel in such legal matters. It all just depends, primarily on luck and fortuity.
An analogy can be drawn from the field of medicine. If one chooses to ignore the lump on one’s neck, it may go away without incident. Or, there may be a point in time in the future where one learns to great dismay that they would have been far better off seeking medical intervention at the first opportunity.
Passing on professional advice and assistance, in favor of scrolling online through some legal forms or information, preparing your own documents as a layperson, ignoring legal matters that should be attended to altogether, or doing your own medical diagnosis on Web MD, can be risky. And while the acceptability of that level of risk is a matter of individual choice, those who have the view that the advice and assistance of a licensed professional is of no benefit many times have learned the hard way that such is not necessarily the case.
Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.