I think I figured out within my first week of law school that one is almost always better off with a lawyer. Things that I might have attempted myself, previous to attending law school, I wouldn’t dream of doing without a lawyer now. Take the drafting of a will for example. I wouldn’t have given it much thought before; but now I wouldn’t consider doing it myself—there’s too much to take into account. Only a lawyer that knows your situation will make sure you don’t forget something important. This can be as simple as what to do if the person you’re leaving things to, dies before you do. Or it could be something as complex as how the shares in your company are dealt with upon your death. With a lawyer helping you, you’ll likely be advised to also consult with a tax lawyer or accountant about any tax consequences of leaving assets to your relatives or friends. Wills and estates lawyers deal with this kind of thing everyday. They take into account possible future scenarios that we regular people wouldn’t even dream of. This is true for many areas of the law. That’s why you’re usually better off letting a lawyer deal with things rather than attempting them yourself.
That being said, I don’t believe in just leaving things up to the professionals either. Blindly following the advice of a lawyer, or other professional, without finding out enough about the subject to make your own decisions, is not really a good idea either. Doing some homework and checking over your lawyer’s work may take a little longer and your lawyer might not like it, but it certainly makes for better decisions. I guess that’s another thing law school teaches you—don’t take anyone’s word for it. Check things out yourself and don’t hesitate to ask questions. So go ahead and research how to draft a will, write up an important contract, get a divorce; but get a lawyer to do the work—you’ll be much better off. And don’t forget to keep your lawyer on his or her toes by asking the right questions and making sure that everything is as you want it to be.
Democratizing the law one question at a time