Five Reasons for Spouses to read legal documents

Dear John

The roles in my marriage are clearly defined.  My spouse earns the money and I spend it.  However, I have fallen behind in recent years and money has accumulated to an extent that I now worry about losing our nest egg.

From time to time, my spouse asks me to sign documents for the benefit of the business.  I completely trusted my spouse when there was nothing to lose but, now wonder are there documents to avoid?

R.S.

Missouri


Dear R.S.,

I assume that your spouse is male and you are right to be concerned that the rat has either got another woman, or is going broke.

Sometimes the risk is obvious from the name of the document however some risks are less obvious. Here are five ways that your money can disappear like MAGIC:

  1. Mortgagor.  If you borrow money on the security of your house when you sell it the loan must be paid off i.e. your nest egg can evaporate.  The obligation can be hidden in the document and secured later by a caveat.
  2. Attorney. If you give your husband a power of attorney he steps into your shoes and can sell everything including your jewellery, as if he were you.
  3. Guarantor.  No money passes hands when you sign a guarantee and it can feel deceptively easy.  But, have no doubt that banks and others will call upon the money if your spouse cannot pay e.g. he is bankrupt.
  4. Indemnitor.  Giving an indemnity is like providing an insurance policy if something goes wrong.  Lawyers are forever sticking indemnities into legal contracts or at least I do. Avoid them as they are given very lightly and it is an easy way to become bankrupt if something goes wrong.
  5. Company director.  Although, such a title is flattering it can give you responsibilities that you do not want.  Such as owing money to the tax office or other creditors if the company cannot pay.  If you are not involved in the business it is best to avoid this accolade.

Can you easily avoid liability by saying that you signed the document but you did not know what you were doing?  Are you kidding?

John Fytit

© Paul.Brennan 2009. All rights reserved.  




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