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[November 11, 2009]

3 Reasons Not To Use Pre-Printed Legal Forms

There have been a growing number of websites and stores that provide pre-printed legal forms to consumers ranging from creating a will to creating a business. While these appear to be inexpensive, fast, and accurate resources, there are a number of problems with using pre-printed legal forms. Legal documents are the tools we use to protect our rights and our assets. It is imperative that these tools are utilized properly. There are a number of issues to consider when thinking about using pre-printed forms.

The accuracy and enforceability of pre-printed forms should be the number one concern when considering whether to use them. Pre-printed forms are often very generic and do not address specific issues that may arise when drafting legal documents. Each state has their own set of rules regarding various legal issues. The variations in state law may appear to be minor differences, but often times those variations are the difference between an enforceable document and a useless document. Pre-printed legal forms do not accurately reflect these variations and could lead to a bad document that has no legal effect.

Each individual has different needs to address when drafting documents. Pre-printed forms do not address those needs. Everyone’s goals are different when drafting contracts, wills, or any other legal document. The generic language of a pre-printed form does not address your specific needs and may not adequately protect your rights or accomplish your goals.

The origin of pre-printed forms is unknown. Pre-printed forms do not tell you who created these forms or whether they were created by a legal professional. Only lawyers have the skill and knowledge to create an accurate and enforceable document. Pre-printed forms do not disclose where the document came from or whether the person who wrote it has any legal background.

The second most important issue to consider when thinking about using pre-printed forms is that you have no one to fight for you if the document is challenged. These forms often come with disclaimers and no warranties. Disclaimers should immediately raise a red flag. The maker of the document has disclaimed any responsibility over mistakes, they have not addressed your specific needs, and once you buy the form they are completely immune. Having a lawyer draft any documents avoids this problem. You know it will be done correctly, you have someone to fight for you, and you have someone to take responsibility for the drafting of the document.

The third reason pre-printed forms are not a good idea is that they may cost you more money down the road. Using pre-printed forms may seem like a way to save time and money, but in the long run it could prove more costly. If a document is challenged or there is a risk that it is unenforceable, the costs of dealing with it in Court can be extremely expensive and time consuming. Taking the time to have an attorney review your individual needs and tailor a document at the start can save you or your family costly legal expenses down the road.

Legal documents are a vital tool to protect many areas of our lives, areas that affect our families, our livelihoods, and our hard earned wealth. It is important that those tools are used accurately and to our advantage to adequately protect and preserve the things we have worked hard to earn and the people we earn them for.

[August 10, 2009]

In a depressed economy, people actively seek out ways in which to reduce their spending, cut their expenses, and save money any way they can. This is a normal, and for the most part, constructive, practice. But where are you looking for budget cuts? Are you getting rid of “luxuries” that, believe it or not, you can do without? Or are you cutting out essential protection that you’ll regret not having? It seems like we sometimes incorrectly value the benefit we receive from a certain expenditure.

An example is telling: 56% of Americans pay for cable television, but only 53% have life insurance. Is your favorite show more important than your financial well-being? Probably not. How about this: only 45% of Americans have a will; that’s 11% less than have cable!

The point is, we all feel the need to cut expenses right now. But people should be cutting the extraneous fluff, rather than the necessities that will protect them and their loved ones now and in the future. Let’s take a look at a few of those things:

Retirement Planning

Many people tend to stop throwing money into their retirement accounts when they see those numbers dropping in the stock exchange, and with good reason: we need to be very careful about our investments right now. But people also tend to forget that when share prices drop, that monthly deposit is buying more shares. When share prices go back up (and they will), you’re worth even more.

On the other hand, the longer you go without building your retirement savings, the worse your situation may be upon retirement (or, the longer you’ll have to wait to retire). It makes sense to proceed with caution in volatile economic times; it makes little to no sense to cut this type of spending in order to save money in the short run.

Estate Planning

Too often, a person looks at a will, or a medical directive, or a trust, as expendable. Fifty-five percent of America has no estate planning in place! But these people, who feel that they don’t own enough to justify a will, or that their beneficiaries obvious so no planning is needed, fail to account for many other issues: do you have funeral arrangements to specify? Do you need tax planning to ensure your beneficiaries get the most they can? Do you have children who need a guardian? What if you’re hurt in an accident and can’t make your own decisions – does someone know what you want done? Do they have the authority to get it done? These questions are far too important to ignore just to save a few hundred dollars. When you’re looking to cut costs, it isn’t wise to cut the cost of future planning and security.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is another item easily ignored. With no immediate benefit, and no immediate loss, it’s easy to forego this type of spending when money gets tight. But should you? Life insurance isn’t just a tool to get some money to your loved ones when you die. Properly used, it can be a retirement planning vehicle, an emergency fund, a college savings account, and more.

There is no doubt people are looking for ways to save money. But are those people also thinking ahead when doing so? Some things we see as necessities aren’t so at all: fancy cars, premium cable channels, or dinners at nice restaurants. Some things, like proper planning and protection, get thrown to the wayside. When looking for a way to tighten your belts through these down times, get the advice of your accountant, your attorney, your insurance agent, your investment planner, or another professional adviser, before thinking that your personal protection is an expendable investment.

Carucci Butler, LLC offers free initial consultations with the exception of domestic cases.