Tempted by that online will, divorce settlement or lease template? Read this first

Whether in a personal capacity or for business reasons, many people have searched online for templates, for instance for a will, rental agreement, retainer, divorce settlement agreement or employment agreement.

However, be careful not to be caught out by a defunct clause or missing information, which can result in horrible consequences, warns Alex Townsend, a candidate attorney at Gillan & Veldhuizen.

One size won't fit all

"Online template agreements are akin to the fashion standard of a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, whereas a professional, personalised agreement is like having an outfit tailor made for a specific occasion," explains Townsend.

The standardised approach could lead to the inclusion of irrelevant terms and, more importantly, the creation of loopholes through the omission of important clauses.

This, in turn, could bring disastrous and costly consequences down the line if disputes arise.

Townsend adds that people without legal training are not always fully aware of their legal rights and obligations and are generally unfamiliar with the law or with the changes and nuances that pertain to a specific legislation and its regulations.

These changes may be relevant to the agreement templates found online which may or may not be updated to be brought in line with legislative amendments.

Cheap now, expensive later

For example, if a credit transaction is involved, the correct provisions of the National Credit Act (including its regulations) need to be adhered to in the agreement.

The bottom line is that contracts are important documents that regulate the relationships between parties, with legal consequences that can be onerous if not drafted and executed correctly.

"While it may seem expensive to consult an attorney, professional advice will lessen the possibility of incurring legal fees in the future," says Townsend.

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