By R. Kevin Davis, Esq.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We’ve all heard that adage before. Yet too many people ignore its wisdom. It is often the case that
lawyers get brought into a situation only after something has gone wrong and the client has found
themselves in a dispute with another person or business. Many times these disputes arise out of some
agreement that the client drafted themselves, used a pre-printed generic form, or just verbally agreed
to some arrangement.
It is our experience that by the time the client has sought legal representation they have placed
themselves in a situation where they are woefully unprotected or under protected by the terms, or
absence of terms, in their documents. Clients tend to think they are saving money when they put
together their own agreements, estate plans, or employment policies. However, inadequate documents
usually result in legal difficulties when disputes arise and clients end up incurring far more time and
expense attempting to correct or deal with these problems on the back end.
One example involves lease agreements. In Alabama if the property is residential property the
provisions of the Alabama Landlord Tenant Act will apply. There are certain terms that this law prohibits
a landlord from including in the lease agreement, such as a provision obligating the tenant to pay the
landlord’s attorney’s fees if collection or eviction efforts become necessary. If a landlord attempts to
enforce a provision in its lease that the law has prohibited, the law allows the tenant to seek money
damages against the landlord in an amount equal to one month’s rent.
Then there is the example of using generic pre-printed forms found at the chain office supply stores or
through some internet service. People who use such documents for estate planning can find out too
late that their documents are inadequate. Take a power of attorney. Unless a power of attorney is
properly drafted, a client may find that the document their loved one signed simply doesn’t give them
the authority they thought it did. This can be particularly problematic when the loved one has become
incapacitated and unable to sign a new power of attorney document. A power of attorney has to be
specific as to certain issues – such as the authority to convey real estate. Simply having language that
the attorney-in-fact “can do anything the principal can do” is not going to be sufficient in those instances
where specificity is required.
Attorneys, like doctors and accountants, provide professional services to their clients and these services
cost money. However, getting legal counsel involved on the front end of a matter will usually be a lot
less expensive than having to bring them in after mistakes have been set in stone. While that ounce of
prevention does carry a cost, the cure costs a lot more.
This article was written by R. Kevin Davis, Esq. If you have any questions or comments about this article please feel free to contact Kevin via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org