The hidden dangers of DIY legal forms

October 12, 2012
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With the wealth of DIY information and online template forms available to everyone today, often it’s very easy to think you can do something better yourself. However, there’s one area of Do-It-Yourself that should really be left to the experts – the law.

Frances Kelly, solicitor at Tallents in Newark says:

People might think they are saving themselves perhaps time or money by completing their own wills, or a Lasting Power of Attorney, but it’s a false economy in the long run that generally requires great deal of expense to put right.

There’s a growing market for online legal documents and a huge number of DIY legal forms available today; everything from DIY divorces, wills and trusts to partnership agreements for businesses. However, Frances is keen to point out the dangers and potential pitfalls of DIY legal forms.

She says:

Even though many of these forms have templates which guide you through their completion, without experience in the legal system and the law, you may not fully understand the legal significance of what you’re doing and the long-term effects  signing this document could have, on your or your family.

As a solicitor, I’ve spent years ensuring I know everything required to draft a legal document that will meet the wishes of my client exactly. I can advise them about additional areas they may need to consider, or even additional legal documents they should sign.

I’ve experienced many different scenarios and can provide additional legal advice or guidance beyond the current situation to anticipate future events. This is something a template legal form cannot do.

When it comes to legal documents, the simplest of mistakes can have serious and long lasting consequences. Take Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) forms, says Frances:

An LPA is designed to allow someone else to act on your behalf and control your financial affairs in case you are mentally or physically incapacitated. Within specific parameters your Attorney can make key decisions for you. However, you may wish to make restrictions on what your Attorneys can and cannot do on your behalf.  If these restrictions are not drafted properly they can create problems and make the Power of Attorney ineffective.

An experienced Solicitor will draft an LPA to take into account the current wishes of a client and advise on the best wording to cover future eventualities.

But there’s one are of DIY law that really concerns Frances:

By far the worst-case scenarios involving disastrous DIY legal forms involve wills. Just one misplaced word can change the writer’s intention completely and leave heartache, and probably a very large financial mess, for the loved ones left behind. These DIY will forms are truly a disaster waiting to happen and a will is definitely one time when you shouldn’t attempt to ‘Do-It-Yourself’.

So, what can you do if you’ve already completed a template legal form? Frances finishes:

It’s probably not too late for your solicitor to take a look at the document and ensure that it is fit for purpose and will result in your preferred intentions. You may think you saved money by completing the form yourself in the first place, but a meeting with your solicitor now could save significant costs in the future. Don’t leave anything to chance and make an appointment today.

DIY divorce DIY wills Frances Kelly Lasting Power of Attorney LPA template legal form Will writing
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