Legal Ease? Do-It-Yourself Lawyering Is Not for Everyone

By Royal, Leslie E. | Black Enterprise, February 2004 | Go to article overview

Legal Ease? Do-It-Yourself Lawyering Is Not for Everyone


Royal, Leslie E., Black Enterprise


Cheryl Collins-McLemore is only 37 years of age, but she's already considering her mortality. In the event of her imminent death, she does not want to be kept on life support; desires for her body to be donated to science; wishes for a particular family member to raise her 10-year-old daughter, Hope; and wants all of her assets distributed in a specific way.

"If I passed away today, none of my wishes would be granted because my family members [lave no idea what I want and I haven't expressed them in writing" says Collins-McLemore. "I know the importance of a will, but. I don't want to spend money on expensive lawyers to do a simple will. I would like to do my own will. I just don't know where to start."

According to Nolo's Simple Will Book (Nolo Press; $36.99) by attorney Denis Clifford, as many as 66% of Americans do not. have a will. But before you decide to handle legal matters yourself, "at least try to get a consultation with a lawyer, which can cost less than $100," says Keith Waiters of Keith Watters & Associates law firm in Washington, D.C., and past president of the National Bar Association. "If it's a reputable lawyer, he will advise you to do it yourself or hire him to do it because you can get into trouble [if it's not done properly].

"Whether or not you do your own will or handle other legal matters depends on your education, personal level of sophistication, and understanding of the subject;' says Watters. "If you would like to attempt to do a simple will [when there is little or no real property or assets] yourself, legal forms can be found at stores like Office Depot and Staples, online Websites, software programs, and books."

Other than legal service programs for the poor, such as www.LawHelp.org and The Legal Aid Society, lawyers and law firms do not offer free or low-cost legal assistance. However, several Websites offer free legal forms such as wills, bankruptcy, landlord-tenant agreements, power of attorney, and various other legal documents, which can be downloaded at www.

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