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"I signed this. Is that OK?"

A primer on why you shouldn't sign a document without talking to a lawyer BEFORE you sign it.

 

No joke, at least once a month (probably more, but I don't want to exaggerate), someone calls or emails me and says, basically, "I signed this document.  Is it ok?"

I try not to be too snarky, but my response is usually along the lines of:  "You better hope so because, um, you already signed it."

Sometimes, it doesn't matter.  The document is standard fair and there are no serious consequences.  Frequently, however, the results are disastrous.  So you sign a divorce judgment without knowing what it really means, you sign a purchase agreement for a house without realizing what all that little print stands for, or you sign a guaranty for your college kid's loans, knowing for sure that Suzy will get an awesome job with her liberal arts degree from Tulane and promptly be able to pay back her $135,000 in loans, most of which was spent doing 'research' in the French Quarter, and even if she doesn't, they can't come after me...can they?

Yes, they can.  And yes, you signed away your rights to your ex's pension.  And yes, you will lose your earnest money security deposit because you didn't get your inspection within seven days.  Sorry, but that's the way it is.  All of those little words on that document you signed actually mean something, and executing a document without full knowledge of what its terms entail could mean anything from minor inconvenience to financial ruin.

Potential clients will also ask how much it will cost to review or draft a document, and even though I think my rates are perfectly reasonable, often they won't follow up.  I know it's because they don't want to pay the money, and that's fine.  But you can either pay me now, or pay me later.  By that I mean that you can protect yourself with a fairly minor investment up front, or you can hire me later to defend you in a lawsuit as a result of the document that you didn't want to pay to have reviewed.  It sounds a little crass, but it's true.  So here's your free piece of advice:  call me before you sign that document.  Or call me later.  Either way, I'm good, but you might not be...

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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