Be Cautious About Preparing Your Own Legal Documents

By Benjamin Rowe

You don't need to always seek the services of a lawyer every time you need to have some legal documents prepared. If you are confident about yourself and willing to put in the time for research, you may easily prepare the documents yourself.

Various websites offer reasonably priced, or sometimes even free downloads of many legal documents ranging from will preparation and estate planning, to divorces and requests for name change, to incorporation papers when you're starting your own business.

Some sites offer very detailed text or sometimes even videos to guide you in choosing your required services. After creating an account, there's a site which requires you to answer from a prepared set of questions and your answers becomes the basis of a custom document. There are sites which offer the simple forms for free while other sites allow you to download files for reference in making forms yourself.

These sites would have been sufficient if only circumstances were so simple and only required straightforward answers, but a lot of the legal documents actually entail discretionary thinking on your part.

If you create the legal document you need, do you know what to do with it? The website may initially be able to provide that information but take note that processes and regulations may possibly differ between states and sometimes even by locality. A lawyer would be quite adept at handling those peculiarities for you, make sure that the appropriate paperwork are properly filed, and perhaps even provide safe storage for some documents like wills, which don't have to come out until years after, when its owner already passed away.

When your answers are less than straightforward you may hit a snag. For example, in a second marriage you may want to leave your home to your children, but allow your spouse to live there until he or she dies. Online forms may not be able to cover lifetime estate.

The more complex your issues are, the less likely the chances that you can handle them on-line. For those cases, you are going to need an attorney so that you can ask questions until you get the answers you need. The good thing though is that most of these forms don't ask for payment unless you have completed them. So you may cancel halfway through, when it is already apparent that it would be insufficient to provide the results you were looking for. Don't worry about the supposedly wasted time you have spent trying to do the thing on your own, at least it prepared you better for the actual call to the attorney's office.

You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that a visit to the attorney's office is not as costly as you thought it would be. When evaluating your options, contact the attorney's office first to know their rates for a particular service that you are looking for. If the costs don't vary that much you might as well leave the paperwork to the experts.

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