Is Legal DIY a Don’t? When To Go Pro

Whether you’re starting a company or dissolving a relationship (personal or business), one of the first things that probably comes to mind is whether or not to seek legal guidance. And while it’s rarely a bad idea to employ solid counsel, concerns about cost and contractual commitments can be prohibitive. Using online legal technology companies for documents ranging from living trusts to trademark registration can save money, but will you get the support you need to feel confident of the desired outcome?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for every legal matter. But it’s worth your time to measure the difference between DIY and traditional counsel. Here are a few key areas to consider:

Preparing a Deed

DIY can be a good option for fixing your sink or revamping your décor, but not necessarily when you’re preparing a deed for your home or other real property. Potential red flags to be aware of when it comes to using self-serve options:

  • You’ll need the correct legal description for the deed to be valid. An attorney or title company can research and verify.
  • Not all online companies know the particular deed requirements of each state.
  • DIY services don’t provide legal counsel as to the impact of different vesting options with regard possession, usage and estate planning.

Divorce

Opinions differ as to whether a do-it-yourself divorce is a good idea. DIY dissolution is an option if you and your spouse are in full agreement on key issues like child custody, division of property and support, and you feel that you have complete information about your family’s assets and debts (and that they are fairly simple). Heightened emotions, unresolved anger, suspicion of hidden assets and lack of understanding about entitlements and the legal process are common reasons professional representation is the best choice. Mediation can offer a good alternative and can cost less.

Wills

Holographic wills (those that are entirely handwritten and signed by the testator) are legal in about half of the states across the nation. And they don’t have to be witnessed or notarized. However, two disinterested witnesses must typically identify the will maker’s handwriting for it to be considered valid. Also, having a will does not exempt an estate from probate. Estate planning strategy differs depending on the size of an estate, its complexity, number of beneficiaries and more. It’s a good idea to search for an estate planning attorney willing to give a free consultation before going it alone.

Power of Attorney

There are different scenarios where powers of attorney are used. They give an individual(s) authorization to make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to mentally or physically handle your affairs, and in some cases, authorize a representative to access information on your behalf. Most states or online technology companies offer simple forms for power of attorney that you can fill out. However, they still need to be signed, witnessed and notarized by another adult. But do you actually need a lawyer to write a durable power of attorney? Not necessarily. However, depending on the complexity of your affairs and questions you may have, a legal professional involved can provide you with additional peace of mind.

Legal matters are as diverse as the people involved in them. And the amount of advice available online and from well-meaning friends and relatives can be overwhelming. But it’s better to have plentiful information at your fingertips rather than not enough. So, take your time perusing what’s available and make choices that fit your circumstances and comfort level. You’ll be glad you did.

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