I’ll say right up front. Most of us will not heed the most basic, simple, preventive legal advice possible. Before you sign a legal document, read it. Ok, ok, I know – who has time? Why worry so much? Who understands it?
A lot of the calls I have taken on the radio over the years had to do with callers not taking the time to read what was stuck in front of them by the salesperson. Ready to join the fitness club, sign here. You want the car, sign here. Sign here. Sign here. Feel good right now. Pay for it later, in so many legal ways.
When you are in with the finance manager, ready to drive away in that new car, I want you to take a deep breath, make a joke about lawyers if you must, and then read what they are asking you to sign. If you don’t understand something, then make the dealership explain the words in plain English so that you can understand what you are agreeing to. I recall doing just that one time when I was about to lease a car. The finance manager had no clue what he was putting in front of me, except that you sign it and then you get to drive away. Don’t let them get away with this.
You are out looking for a house to buy. Don’t wait until you find that perfect house to discuss the purchase and sale agreement. When you get started looking, simply ask the real estate agent for blank copies of the purchase and sale agreement and all of the supplemental documents that he or she will be asking you to sign. Take them home, get out the highlighter, and read every word of the documents. Highlight portions, make notes and then ask the agent to explain the agreement and answer all of your questions about the meaning of all of the clauses. The purchase of a home is still the biggest purchase of your lifetime. Read it and ask questions. Now, when you find the perfect house, you will be ready to sign immediately and you’ll know what you are getting yourself into.
We can save ourselves so much legal grief, if we will just read what we are signing, before we sign.