You go for a yearly checkup at your doctor's office, right? It's not because you're sick or something is wrong. But a checkup offers you a chance to discuss things with your doctor, ask questions, and get professional input on your overall health.
So why don't you get a "legal checkup" every year too?
After all, there are benign changes to your legal health every year just like with your physical health. Every time you sign a legal document or encounter significant life changes, it could affect you legally.
So what types of situations may lend themselves to a "legal checkup"? Here are just a few:
- Family changes. Getting married, getting divorced, having children -- they all have an impact on your relationship with the law. Those kinds of events mean you may need to update, or maybe just create, a will. It might also mean making changes to your health insurance policy. What legal responsibilities do you have to your family after certain changes? Can these changes be made without a court's involvement? There are two ways to know: Do the research yourself, or ask a professional.
- A new job. When you start a new job, you usually have to sign a bunch of paperwork including an employment contract. If it includes a non-disclosure agreement or a deal that determines who owns your intellectual property, you need to understand how that affects you. Plus, your old job might have had contractual provisions to prevent you from recruiting prior co-workers. You'll find out about all of these things if you have someone look over the paperwork for you.
- Major financial events. Whether you've just won the lottery or gone deep into debt, money affects your legal well-being more than almost anything. Ignoring the legal landscape when it relates to taxes or bankruptcy is a recipe for disaster. But you can avoid the problem by dealing with each financial change when it happens rather than letting them snowball.
So how do you go about getting a "legal checkup"? A local attorney will probably make time for a private consultation, but it will likely cost you.
For the cost-conscious, there's another option: A legal plan that offers unlimited on-call access to local attorneys who can answer your questions. One plan, called LegalStreet, also includes an attorney-drafted will and an annual will review as part of a prepaid plan that works out to less than $13 a month. LegalStreet plans also include legal document reviews by licensed attorneys.
You take care of your family's physical health so that an unexpected illness won't lead to tragedy. But unexpected legal crises can be just as serious. Isn't it time you started being proactive about your legal health too?
Disclaimer: LegalStreet and FindLaw.com are owned by the same company.