Many people like the idea of saving money by doing various tasks themselves.  Do-It-Yourself, or DIY for short, home projects are so popular, there is at least one cable TV network dedicated to DIY stuff.  Home improvement warehouses like Lowes and Home Depot cater to DIYers.  Even my teen daughter will be paining her own room this weekend.  The trick to DIY projects is to know your limits so you do not produce a substandard or dangerous product.

Legal Work Is Not Like Painting

Almost anyone can paint his or her room.  In a worst case scenario, some paint gets spilled or the painter doesn’t like the new color as much he or she expected.  Legal work is different.  Lawyers’ work is not suitable for DIY.

Res Judicata

When a paint project goes wrong, new paint can be applied over the previous coat.  But in court, when something is decided, it often cannot be changed.  Once a matter is settled, it is res judicata (Latin for “a matter already judged”).  The result is that things have to be done right the first time, and knowing what to do and how to do it is beyond the skill level of non-lawyers.

Pro Se

A person in the United States has an absolute right to represent him or herself in legal proceedings.  We call this person a pro se (Latin meaning “for himself”).  However because a person CAN represent him or herself, does not mean he or she SHOULD do so!  In court, a pro se is expected to know what a lawyer knows.  In drafting documents, the court also expects that a pro se will draft the documents correctly and execute them with the required formality according to the law.  If a person does not know what is required to properly execute a legal document, he or she could be doing serious legal damage to family or self.

Questions To Ask

Most people can sense when they read something that doesn’t seem to add up, but because of the complexity of legal work, DIYers can easily get into truly dangerous situations without even realizing it.  In legal work, the questions that are not asked are often as important as those that are.  Anyone can read a document and see that something does not seem to belong.  Without legal education and experience, most people cannot see where something belongs that isn’t there.  That’s the real problem with DIY will kits.  How can a fill in the blank form (you know what the Estates Code says about wills that are not written entirely in the testator’s own hand, don’t you?) possibly account for your specific family and needs?  If some important element is left out of the form, how would a DIYer know?

Conclusion

One similarity between DIY legal work and DIY home improvement is that it often costs more to repair damage than it would cost to do the project right to start with.  Re-wiring a faulty electrical system a DIYer installed during a home remodel will cost much more than it would have cost to have a licensed electrician to just install it correctly in the first place.  Likewise, the legal cost of sorting out probate problems caused by a faulty DIY will may cost many thousands of dollars, while the will itself could have been done for a fraction of that cost by a competent lawyer.

Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm that uses a holistic approach to help people get on with their new life by getting done with their old life.  We believe having a thoughtful will package is family law, and we offer a robust selection of testamentary and other documents our clients need to confidently move on with their new lives.  This essay is intended for educational use only, and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel.  If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC.  For more information, contact us at 817-601-5345, find us on the web at www.youngblood-law.com, or on your mobile device, open your browser and type in lawfw.biz and press Go.

Paul Youngblood #youneedawill #lawfw #youngbloodlaw #somedayistoday #collaborativedivorce #beingdivorceddoesntsuck