Best Practices for DIY Online Legal Documents

There was a time when approaching a lawyer and paying hefty legal fees was the only recourse available to people who needed even the simplest of legal documents. Things have changed significantly in recent years, and most standard legal documents are now easily available online. While some establishments that offer these documents charge a small one time fee, others provide them for free.

Given that there are several such websites that offer well made legal documents online, there are scores of options for people who are looking for standard purchase and sale agreements for property, etc., wills, rental agreements, articles of incorporation, operating agreements and many more. Here is a look at some of the best practices to adhere to so that you don’t have to meet an attorney face to face to create a simple legal document.

Creating legal documents online

To create legal documents online, you will need to begin by looking for an online vendor that offers such documents free or for a small fee. If the document is government related; for instance, the forms needed for filing a dispute against a manufacturer in cases where a faulty product was sold; these documents are available for free from government websites.

Once you have found a website, find the type of document that you need. Make sure that you read the description of the document carefully because there are several legal forms that appear to be similar at first glance

All online legal documents will require you to fill in some blanks with crucial information such as your name, address and that of the other parties or beneficiaries involved in the deal. Ensure that all the entries have been double checked including the spelling of the names – the last thing that you need is a signed legal document that does not accomplish the intended goals.

Remember that a legal document is just a piece of paper unless it is signed by the relevant parties. Execute the documents by signing them and then file a copy for safety.

Best practices for using online legal documents

Signing the document with witnesses present: As mentioned above, a legal document comes into effect only after it has been signed by the parties involved in the deal. While you will not need to have witnesses present in all types of legal dealings, you will need to ensure that you sign the document in front of two or more witnesses in case of deeds or a will.

Read the document carefully before signing it: If the document has a choice of wordings, make sure that you strike out the non-applicable phrases and remove the square brackets before you sign the documents.

Get legal advice if in doubt: If you are in doubt about the implications of any clause in the legal document, you can ask the lawyer to draft a contract for you. However, since lawyers charge by the hour, this can be quite expensive. On the other hand, asking a lawyer to correct or change a few clauses in an online template may be cheaper.

Dating the contract: Ensure that you fill in the date that appears at the beginning of almost all legal documents. The date is filled in when the contract is signed by both parties. If one part signs the document ahead of the other, use the date on which the last party signed the contract. The date on the contract may not necessarily be the date on which the contract comes into effect. For instance, a contract to supply services may have a clause with the date on which the services are suppose to commence mentioned explicitly. Once again, you will need to insert the correct date in the blank.

Text alteration: If you need to change some of the text in the printed legal document by hand, make sure that both parties evidence the change by inserting their initials in the margin. This is particularly important in case of a will where the witnesses and testator should also put their initials in the margin. Make sure that you do not change the documents once they have been signed. Instead, a safer option would be to prepare and sign an amending agreement. You could also confirm the change through the use of a letter. Ensure that the other party also agrees to the changes by signing a copy of the letter.

The number of copies: One copy of a legal document with each party should generally be enough; however, you may also want to get a copy for safekeeping.

Mirsad Hasic is the editor of think credit cards, a consumer oriented site that focus on helping consumers find a credit card for their specific needs.

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