How to Create Legal Documents

A pile of legal documents and a fountain pen

When templates aren't right for you, you can draft your own papers.

Legal fees can be expensive. Sometimes it is more efficient to be able to draft your own documents, rather than relying on someone else doing it for you. Whether you wish to enter a petition for a divorce; create a will on your own; or draft a simple contract to sell an old sofa, you need to know how to make your own legal document that is valid in your state or place of residence.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Determine the type of document you wish to make, as some forms of legal document are only valid when drafted through an attorney. Divorce papers, for example, can be submitted yourself only if you are applying for a “no fault” divorce; otherwise an attorney is necessary to produce the correct paperwork.
  2. Make a note of the important points the document must cover. If making a contract, you should note each part of the contract; such as when goods must be delivered, or when payment is due. If making a will, note each item or set of property and who that set or item will be bequeathed to. This will enable you to draft the necessary legal document without worrying that you have left out something vital.
  3. Turn on your computer. Load your Internet browser and visit a free legal document site such as Free Legal Documents, the Microsoft Office templates directory, and Business Balls. Browse the site for the kind of legal document template you require, such as a sale of goods contract template or a will template for your state. Download the relevant document to your computer.
  4. Load your word processing software, such as Word, OpenOffice or Pages. Open the template document you downloaded in your word processor. Fill in the blank sections of your template using the notes you made earlier. Print two copies of your completed document, in case you need an extra copy.

If you will need to create your own legal documents on a regular or semi-regular basis, it is a good idea to save a copy of your template document somewhere you can easily find it. This will allow you to produce new documents quickly and without the need to search for more templates.

Please Note

When drafting your own legal documents, it is important to meet all legal requirements in your state or territory, otherwise you risk your document being declared illegal or unenforceable. For example, a will that does not correspond to state law may be subject to challenge, while a contract that does not correspond to state law will have some or all of its provisions declared unenforceable.

Photograph by NobMouse on Flickr

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