48 Rules to Prevent Legal Problems in Your Life

Signing Things

  • Don’t sign anything until you read it.
  • Don’t sign anything until you understand it.
  • Don’t sign anything unless you agree with it.
  • Don’t sign anything with blank spaces.
  • Keep a copy of everything you sign.
  • If you’re told what is written down really means something different from what you think it means, don’t automatically believe it.
  • If you’re not sure about signing something, take it to a lawyer before you sign it, not after.
  • Keep good records.
  • A verbal contract is worth the paper it’s written on.
  • If someone is trustworthy enough to do a deal with, they should be willing to sign a written agreement.

Buying Things

  • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • When you’re buying a house, don’t rely exclusively on the advice of a real estate agent who gets paid only if you buy the house.
  • When buying a house, hire your own home inspector, preferably one who is a licensed engineer.
  • Do lots of research before hiring a home improvement contractor.
  • If a deal is valid only if you sign right now, it’s almost never a good deal.
  • After you buy most things, you do not have 3 days to change your mind.
  • Use credit cards very sparingly.
  • You’re still responsible for paying your apartment lease, even if you move out early.
  • If you give your car or house voluntarily back to the bank, you still owe them the balance of your loan after they sell your property at auction.

The Police

  • Don’t give permission to the police to search anything. They need a warrant.
  • When the police say they are “just trying to clear things up”, it really means they are looking for a reason to arrest someone.
  • The attorney for the state decides whether to drop criminal charges, not the victim.
  • Be polite and respectful of the police.
  • If stopped by the police, stay calm and in control of your words, body language, and emotions.
  • Don’t touch a police officer.
  • Don’t resist a police officer, even if you think you are innocent.
  • Don’t run from the police.
  • If stopped by the police, keep your hands where they can be seen.
  • If stopped by the police, don’t reach for anything without first asking the police officer.

Accidents

  • If you’re in a car accident, no matter how minor, always get the other driver’s name, phone number, insurance information, and license plate number.
  • If you’re in a car accident, no matter how minor, and the other driver leaves, write down the license plate number, description of the car, and number of people in the car.

Privacy Things

  • Don’t give out your social security number to anyone other than employers and to companies from whom you are requesting credit. If your driver’s license or insurance identification number is your social security number, request that it be changed.
  • Request a free copy of your credit report every year. Then review it for accuracy.
  • Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t be willing to see on the front page of the New York Times.

Solving Problems

  • Take responsibility for your own actions.
  • Not everything bad that happens to you is somebody else’s fault.
  • Suing someone should never be the first way you try to solve a problem.
  • If something inside you tells you that what you’re going to do will end up being a problem, don’t do it.
  • When you have a problem, being honest with the other party is usually the best approach.
  • If you have a problem, telephoning does not reserve your legal rights.

Life in General

  • Don’t be greedy.
  • Be adequately insured.
  • Carry disability insurance.
  • Have a Will.
  • Review your Will every year.
  • Whether it’s someone in a business transaction; in a sale of a house; or the police who are interviewing you; if someone on the other side tells you that you don’t need a lawyer, you almost certainly do.
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