The Florida Bar has released a pamphlet to advise businesses and consumers of when they should hire a lawyer.
Notably, the first bulleted example given is when you are buying real estate. The purchase of real estate, whether for business, as an income property or for investment, or for a home, is usually one of the most expensive and important purchases made (although the cost of education these days is catching up).
You’ve been hurt in a car accident. It’s time to draw up a will. The buyer of your home is suggesting some creative financing. A family member has been arrested.
You need a lawyer. The question is: how do you find the right lawyer for your needs? And, once you do, how can you figure out what it might cost?
This pamphlet is not intended to address every situation or legal question that may arise, but to give some guidance in getting the right legal help when you need it.
Often we turn to lawyers as a last resort after the contract has been signed, or the spouse has walked out or a creditor is threatening.
The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is as true with legal matters as it is with regular medical checkups.
Good legal advice is one of the greatest preventative measures a lawyer can provide. It can not only save you money in the long run, but also save you from unpleasant difficulties later.
Situations in which you should consider consulting a lawyer include:
- Before buying or selling real estate
- Before signing a contract with major financial provisions
- Before making a will or planning your estate
- Before organizing a business
- Whenever you are arrested or charged with a crime
- When you are involved in an accident in which there is significant damage to persons or property
- When there are changes in your family status marriage, adoption, divorce
- When you have tax problems or questions
- When a lawsuit is brought against you, or you want to bring a lawsuit against someone.
These are just some examples, but the fact that the Florida Bar chose to list buying real estate first on its non-exhaustive list should tell you that the Bar thinks it is very important. As it should.
As a business law firm, many other examples of when a lawyer should be consulted could be given. However, in the real estate context, it is probably most often done without an attorney.
To give some context to how things in Florida are different from in other jurisdictions, in New York, for example, a real estate closing is very different from in Florida. In New York, the buyer, the seller, the lender (if there is a mortgage), and the title company, each have their own attorney. Generally, real estate contracts are prepared particularly for the transaction by the attorneys. This is a good thing to avoid any possible conflict of interest.
In Florida, the contract is usually prepared by the real estate broker, without any comments from an attorney. Then, when it is time to close, sometimes, the same attorney sometimes represents the buyer, issues a title insurance policy for the buyer, with an endorsement for the lender if there is a mortgage, and prepares the documents that the seller has to sign. And no other attorney is involved. Get the picture.
If you are buying real estate, it is not a good idea to do so without an attorney.
Think about it. The Florida Bar thinks you should.
Eric N. Assouline
Assouline & Berlowe, P.A.