Why Pay a Lawyer?

Often people ask, “Why pay a lawyer?” when legal document prepares in Arizona can often prepare documents that people would normally go to a lawyer to prepare instead. Arizona  is  rather lax in allowing non-lawyers prepare what are essentially “legal documents.” These individuals typically prepare wills, trusts, powers of attorney, divorce and bankruptcy petitions, Limited Liability Company filings and other such documents. In addition to these “document preparers”, there are several online websites that essentially offer the same services.

What all of these legal document preparers and websites have in common is that they are not permitted to offer legal advice.  The advantage to the consumer is that they are “saving money”, or at least most people that use such services think they are saving money. The problem is, in many cases, all these individuals are doing is playing Russian Roulette with all of their worldly assets.

Now to be fair, I am a lawyer, and I am biased toward the view that legal documents should be prepared by licensed, state bar admitted lawyers, in much the same way as surgeons are biased toward the view that only licensed medical doctors should be permitted to cut people open on the operating table.

A man came to our office the other day asking if we could witness and notarize a will that he had prepared himself utilizing a form that he found online. He obviously wanted to save the $150 fee our firm charges for a simple will, and I do not fault anyone for wanting to save money. I explained that we do not witness and notarize documents that we have not prepared, and I offered at no charge to review the “Will” he had prepared. There were several problems with the will which likely would have resulted in the will requiring formal probate (i.e., it would require a Hearing before a Judge before it was accepted as genuine) and there was language that easily could have resulted in a lawsuit between his heirs. (For example, rather than using the legal terms “I give, devise and bequeath” certain assets to a relative, he stated he was “assigning” the asset to the relative, which left it unclear what exactly he meant to leave the relative.)

Another matter that came to our office was a Bankruptcy case where the Petition had been prepared by a document preparer, but the debtor was about to lose several of her assets, including her car, because she had failed to properly claim the exemptions she was entitled to under Arizona and federal law.

In order to practice law in Arizona, I had to have both a college and law school degree. I had to pass a State Bar Exam and ethics exam. I am admitted in three states and have successfully passed three bar exams. In addition to four years of College (Wake Forest) and three years of Law School (Seton Hall), I spent several years studying and obtaining a Masters of Law (LL.M. Degree) from New York University. I have lectured and taught at several colleges and law schools, including Rutgers School of Law. To be admitted in Arizona I had to undergo an extensive “character and fitness” background investigation,  including being fingerprinted. More importantly, I have over three decades of experience as a practicing attorney. Additionally, although we have never had a claim,  our firm carries malpractice insurance in the unlikely event there was a problem with your documents.

In order to be a document preparer, you do not have to have a college degree. Though there are some standards for a background check, you could have a criminal history or even have been disbarred, and still be a document preparer. Some document preparers are individuals that either did not take or failed the Arizona Bar exam. It is almost certain that they are not licensed attorneys or they would not be advertising as document preparers, and it is unlikely they carry malpractice insurance.

The documents that document preparers are often paid to prepare are the most important documents an individual signs in their lifetime. Do you really want risk all the assets you have accumulated in your lifetime not going to the people you intended to receive them in order to save a few dollars?

Whether you need a trust, a power of attorney, a will, a bankruptcy or divorce petition or other such document, you deserve competent legal advice in order to make sure the documents prepared and executed correctly, and that they truly reflect your wishes.  The old English adage “Penny wise, pound foolish” certainly can be applicable to those who try to save a dollar by having their important legal matters handled by unlicensed document preparers. You will find that the true savings comes from having these documents prepared by your licensed attorney. Call our office for information concerning our fees to prepare any legal filing on your behalf.


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