With the popularity of YouTube, there are more options now than ever for DIY projects. You can DIY projects around your home – like refinishing that front hall table. You can DIY projects in your garden. You can even DIY certain staple food products. But should you DIY your legal documents?
If you Google “how to do a prenup yourself”, you will find loads of websites and resources.
There are oodles of online platforms that offer “free online templates” or low cost templates where you simply “fill in the blanks” in 5 to 10 minutes and you have a legally valid prenup. Seems like a perfect solution! But should you embark on this DIY project? Let’s look at some reasons why you DON’T need a lawyer.
Reason #1 – You Don’t Want to Invest More than 5 to 10 Minutes on a Prenup
It’s true meeting with a lawyer and having a lawyer prepare an agreement customized to your needs does take time. How much times does it take? With the Modern Marriage Contract we have a seamless process. We target one meeting with the professional team and one meeting with your independent lawyer to review the agreement and the law so you know exactly what you are agreeing to and what you are giving up. Your investment in time is usually between 2 to 6 hours over the course of a month or so.
You have made the decision that you want to protect your assets – usually they have significant value or will have significant value. We use prenups to protect homes, pensions, or investments which often are worth well in excess of $100,000. Why would you only invest 5 to 10 minutes on this?
Reason #2 – You Don’t Care If the Agreement is Challenged and is Thrown Out
Legal documents that are downloaded off the internet are “one size fits all”. The problem is your financial situation is not the same as every other person. You have particular assets that need special provisions or clauses that are not found in the online agreement. You will not find the protections you need in the online agreement.
The devil really is in the detail when it comes to drafting a prenup. Even the smallest detail, which seems meaningless can result in significant litigation or payments you didn’t expect. You won’t know what to look for in the agreement or what to take out of the agreement to protect you. These details can haunt you down the road.
The other thing online agreements do is they purposely use language that is intentionally vague. When provisions of an agreement are not clear or vague, it leads to confusion and conflict.
Finally, you need to be aware that online agreements are often not province specific and in some cases use U.S. law and are not applicable in Canada.
Reason #3 – You Only Want to Spend $59 on Your Prenup
The main benefit of online agreements is the low cost. When compared to the cost of lawyers, you can get an agreement for a fraction of the price. When you are planning a wedding or moving in with your significant other, money may be tight. Every dollar counts. So spending money on a lawyer seems like a waste. When it comes to drafting your prenup, this is not the area to look for cost savings. Certainly, you don’t have to drain your bank account on lawyers but you should be prepared to invest a reasonable amount to ensure you are properly protected. To give you an idea on budget, our Modern Marriage Contract, starts at a fixed fee of $3250 which gets you two independent lawyers, a financial professional and a lawyer drafted, legal marriage or cohabitation agreement. Spending $3250 to protect $100,000 – it just makes sense.
Reason #4 – You Like Taking Risks
Using an online agreement can actually impose on you obligations that you didn’t want and didn’t expect and there may be nothing you can do about it.
Let me share with you a story about real life clients.
Max and Emma were getting married. Max had a significant investment account (worth over $200,000 and growing) that he wanted to preserve in the unlikely event they separated. He thought Emma agreed but the conversation wasn’t overly clear and it was said in passing.
Max went to an online legal document website. He paid $59 and got the template. He answered a few simple questions and off he printed the agreement. He carefully read the agreement and sort of understood what it said. He only cared about his investment account anyways so all those extra paragraphs full of legal terms didn’t matter.
Max took the agreement to Emma. She signed it. She didn’t read it, she didn’t understand it and thought they were sharing their lives together and this meant they were also sharing their money.
Unfortunately, things get rocky for Max and Emma and they decide to separate. They start completing their financial statements for divorce and Max pulls out the agreement he created. His investment account was now worth $400,000. He went to exclude this from his divorce settlement but Emma’s lawyer said not so fast. She read the agreement which not only did not say that Max kept his investments on divorce but in fact it says Emma is to be given the investments. The exact opposite of what Max wanted!
Max went to confirm with Emma that this isn’t what they agreed to. However, she didn’t remember it that way. Emotions were now running wild after their break up and there was no longer any trust between them. Emma now wanted to enforce the agreement because not only was she hurt by Max and the break up – she felt she deserved it.
So Max and Emma embark on a very expensive and stressful divorce. All of this could have been avoided had Max and Emma engaged professionals.
Reason #5 – You Don’t Like to Get Good Advice from Professionals
Experienced professionals not only look at ways to protect your assets now but they also look for future problems and help you minimize the risk. They use their experience to foresee problems. Experienced professionals can explain the law to you so you know your rights and your obligations before you sign on the dotted line.
It is pretty amazing when you look at all of the things you can now purchase online. Just because you have the option to do an agreement online, doesn’t mean you should. The time and cost savings are not worth it in the end, because what you think you signed probably isn’t what you actually signed.