Scrawling our signatures on release forms and clicking through interminable end-user license agreements can make us grow rather cavalier about taking the time to read blocks of legalese. All those conditions, clauses, and caveats almost seem as if they’re meant to dissuade you from reading them. But despite attempts to obfuscate, exhaust, or bore, it’s important for you to overcome the legalese and fully grasp anything you sign your name to. Don’t let your failure to read the fine print cost you—here are some sterling examples of legal documents you should read in full whenever you encounter them.
Credit Card Agreements
Because the acquisition of good credit is a prerequisite for leases, mortgages, and new automobiles, credit cards have become necessary financial instruments. Equally necessary is a full understanding of the terms and conditions that attend these agreements. Credit card agreements are infamous for their dense text and byzantine explanations that seem to obscure more than clarify. Failing to grasp an agreement, however, can lead to unforeseen expenses as unforeseen fees accumulate.
When you get married, you are truly entering a partnership. To ensure that this partnership is fair and equal, you may choose to draft and sign a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage—don’t let love blind you as you sign on the dotted line. Be sure to read this document thoroughly because a prenuptial agreement concerns such issues as division of property, child custody, investment assets, and healthcare. Therefore, being taken by surprise by a clause in the prenup could have significant financial ramifications in the event of a divorce. The same goes for a postnuptial agreement, which is signed after the marriage is official.
Real Estate Contracts
Any legally binding contract is a legal document you should read in full, but when said contract concerns buying and selling property, you should be particularly sure to grasp every word on the paper. Real estate transactions require more than a handshake to close the deal. Make sure you understand all clauses concerning “moving parts,” such as escrows and contingencies.