Using prescriptions and legal documents intended for others are both really bad ideas!!

May 21, 2018 - Posted by: admin - In category:

taxes - No Responses

You may get lucky using a prescription drug intended for another person, and likewise, you may use a legal document prepared for someone else without any immediate repercussions.  But neither is a wise choice and why would you want to rely on being lucky?  

If I put ten adults in a room and asked them to raise their hand if they thought it was a good idea to borrow the prescription of their spouse, parent or another family member, I expect that no hands would be visible.  Yet, we know that statistically, a good number of adults borrow prescriptions from family members or friends.  According to one study, approximately 29% of women and 26% of men responding to an anonymous survey admitted to borrowing or sharing prescription medications at least once.  We all know its a bad idea, but sometimes we choose to do it anyway, for a variety of reasons.

In a similar vein, going back to that room of ten adults, if I asked them to raise their hands if they believed it was wise to take a customized legal document written for another person and to adopt it as their own, I expect, again, that no hands would be raised.  Even so, we know that people borrow and share legal papers all of the time.  What’s the harm?  Perhaps none.  Perhaps a great deal.  It depends on the situation and circumstances.  The premise behind doctors and pharmacists prescribing certain drugs to individuals, at specified doses and intervals, depending on the ailment, is based on the application of professional training/expertise to a unique set of facts/circumstances/need.  The concept is very much the same when a client commissions their attorney to prepare customized legal papers for their facts and situation, preferences and goals.

But aren’t legal documents pretty much the same–always filled with a bunch of legal jargon that only an attorney could appreciate and fully understand?  And isn’t it enough to just have something that looks legal and official, even if it was borrowed from a friend and not intended for you?  No and no.  That is somewhat akin to saying it doesn’t matter which drug the pharmacists grabs from behind the counter at the pharmacy—drugs are drugs.  While the comparison may seem a little extreme, it actually is quite on point.

I could share many experiences where clients or potential clients have brought me legal papers they borrowed from another person under the assumption that such legal documents would work just fine for them. Then, when we reviewed the documents together, and I explained to them what the legal instruments contained, what they provided and what was required, I was met with shock and confusion.  “You mean, the effect of this legal document is ‘_____’?  I didn’t intend that at all!!  I wanted and thought I was getting ‘________,’ my brother told me this document would be good enough for me…”

To further illustrate this same point, a few weeks ago, I received a call from an in-house accountant for a large company.  This person doubles as an in-house legal officer (self-appointed and in an informal capacity).  For whatever reason, this accountant (trained as such and with no legal training whatsoever) has taken over the responsibility of handling most employment contracts, NDAs and related “routine” matters for the company.  No doubt, this gentleman intends to show his value to the company owners by handling these matters on top of his usual accounting duties.  In any event, the company had recently terminated an employee and needed to pay severance to said employee.  The accountant sent me an e-mail just as an FYI, but with the assurance that he had everything under control.  He failed to remember that the employment agreement for this individual (which the accountant had prepared himself, adopting from a document I had prepared in another context) required severance to be paid in a manner and amount different from what the accountant was planning.  Likewise, there were a few other loose ends that the accountant was not considering.  Thankfully, I was able to work with the company and its ownership to proceed with the termination and severance payouts in the correct manner, consistent with the existing company obligations specified in the employment agreement.

I share the experience above not to brag (I was just doing my job, according to my experience and training), but rather, to use a real-life example on the topic of this post.  Remember, this was a highly intelligent and highly skilled accountant who made these mistakes relating to legal documents.  It was not a lack of acumen generally that led to the problem.  Rather, it was the fact that an accountant, as smart and wise as an accountant may be, is not trained as an attorney.  (I readily admit that the opposite is also true–an attorney is not trained as an accountant).  Further, this well-meaning accountant was not only out of his zone of competency, but he was also probably outside of his time/attention limit.  He was trying to do too many things in too many areas–something we are all guilty of at times.  But he was well-intentioned to be sure.  Even so, he failed to remember that recycling legal documents often leads to bad results and he failed to appreciate his lack of expertise in the area of contract drafting and interpretation.  Smart as he was/is, he didn’t know what he didn’t know.

To summarize, learn from the mistakes of others so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes yourself.  Included in such mistakes are using prescription drugs and legal documents intended for others.  While either action may prove to be harmless at times (at least in the short-term), the reality is that such actions are far too likely to end up being anything but harmless or good.  Again, why would you take the risk and rely on being lucky?  Such is not worth saving a few bucks.  It really isn’t.  


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