How You May Be Signing Blank Checks—A Charlevoix Lawyer Explains How Many People Sign Blanks Checks Everyday

Signing a CheckI know what your thinking. “I would never sign a blank check!”  But if we think about writing a blank check as signing something without knowing what it will cost us, many people do this all the time. I know people do this because I am asked to do it all the time. As a Northern Michigan attorney, I am also asked to try to undo the damage for clients after they do it.

You should see the odd looks on the faces of people in our community when I stop to read a contract that they hand to me, as if I’m interrupting their day and slowing down their productivity. The look on the face of the people that are suing to enforce that same contract is considerably different. That is the look of “Well you agreed to it!”

As an example, I went to the bank to get a mortgage and the lady had filled my application out online. She then handed me an empty form and asked me to sign it.   She said she had already submitted the information on-line and I just needed to sign it.  I refused to sign it unless it was filled out.

The law is that you are presumed to know and understand what you sign your name to. And, you are legally responsible for it. If that means that you have to pay money to someone else, then that is often what you will have to do. So often, we breeze over contracts and standard language and don’t stop and think about what we are doing. In essence, we are writing a blank check. We are signing something without knowing what it will cost us. It may cost you nothing. I have seen it cost people everything they own.

We sign a blank check by

  1. Signing a contract (such as a lease or release) that we don’t understand. If you think that a release is when you sign another lease, this proves my point exactly. Many times people do not know what they don’t know. And so sometimes we think we understand a legal document when we don’t. So, step one is reading the document. Step two is having a lawyer review it and explain it to us. After all, do you really understand what arbitration is or why it may help or hurt you? Do you understand the importance of a term that states that California Law may govern any dispute? Do you understand the terms indemnification or jurisdiction? These are common contract terms that many people sign without knowing what it will cost them.

We sign a blank check by:

  1. Signing a contract, deed, or other document with blank spaces in it (Yes, I have seen people do this as well).   In other words, “I signed a blank deed because my husband told me he was going to fix a title problem and instead he took my name off the property and then filed for divorce” (true story). Or, there was a blank space where the tip went and that deli doesn’t require tips so I left it blank. It’s just as easy to draw a line through where the tip goes, as it is to leave it blank.

We sign a blank check by:

  1. Downloading a will or trust or other “form” and filling it in without the assistance of an attorney. While I understand that having a will drafted can cost some money (usually $400-800), the cost is MINIMAL compared to the cost of fixing problems that are caused by doing it improperly.

We sign a blank check by:

  1. Filing a lawsuit in court or representing ourselves in a legal matter, even sometimes in small claims court.   Remember, you don’t know what it will cost you. People representing themselves are held to the same standards as an attorney. If you do it wrong, you can be fined for doing it wrong, have a judgment entered against you for money or miss out on getting a judgment you should have.

Once a client signs a blank check, it costs a lawyers rate ($175-$250 per hour locally) to try to get them out of it. And sometimes, it simply isn’t worth the money it would cost to undo it.

At the Doak Law Firm, we offer a free ½ hour consultation and will tell you before you pay any money what it will cost you to have your matter reviewed by an attorney. We are bursting with pride when our clients bring in contracts for us to review prior to signing them. We want to see our clients grow and prosper and be successful. And that is why we ask you to not write blank checks!

***This web site is for informational purposes only and is intended to give you, the viewer, information about the type of services provided by the Doak Law Firm. This is not intended as nor should this web site be used as legal advice. Your case should be specifically reviewed by an attorney. Contacting the Doak Law Firm via this web site, via e-mail, or via phone does not create an attorney-client relationship. An attorney client relationship can only be created by express written agreement with the Doak Law Firm.***

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