Top tip – People usually have more success doing their own legal work when the problem is simple. The more complex the problem, the more difficult it is to handle yourself.
You might be able to solve your legal problem online. Or you may be able to complete some of it yourself and hire a lawyer to handle another part—or to check your work.
For example, you might write your own will using a DIY kit and get a lawyer to check it. This is sometimes known as 'unbundling'.
Here we look at common legal issues that some people choose to handle themselves.
Money Claim Online
If you believe someone owes you money, you may want to make a legal claim to get it back. Your claim could be against a person or a business.
The government runs Money Claim Online. It's a website that lets you enter the details of your claim and go through the legal process of making the claim yourself—without the help of a lawyer.
There are rules about:
- what to do before you make a claim
- how to make a claim
- the type of claim you can make.
If you are thinking about using Money Claim Online, start by reading the user guide.
DIY wills usually involve buying a template or form. To create a valid will, you fill in the template and, then, get people to witness it. You can download and print a template or buy a paper ‘will kit' from a high street shop.
A DIY will might be right for you if your will is simple—for example, the main thing you own is your house and you want to split everything equally between your children.
If your will is more complicated—for example, you want to include step-children or ex-partners in your will, or you own foreign property or stocks and shares—a DIY will might not be right for you.
Top tip – For a small fee, a lawyer will check that your DIY will is valid and may also store it for you. The price of some will kits include a check by a lawyer.
Lasting power of attorney forms
A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that says who can make decisions for you if you cannot decide yourself. For example, if you become seriously ill, you may need someone to decide about your health, welfare, money and property.
To get the forms you need to fill in, and to learn how to create and register your lasting power of attorney, visit the Government's website. For £110, you can register your lasting power of attorney at the website.
Top tip – It's a good idea to talk to the person you plan to nominate as your attorney in advance. They need to know what to expect.
Divorce and family law
Divorce can be expensive. You can choose to do some of the work yourself. Some people represent themselves in court. This is known as being a litigant in person.
To find out more, read this guide for people representing themselves in court in a divorce hearing.
If you have already agreed on money, property and children with your ex-partner, representing yourself in court should be less difficult. You can try to agree the details between yourselves—or with the help of a mediator. If your divorce is more complicated, it is likely to be harder to deal with as a litigant in person.
Other legal matters
You may want to try to solve other legal problems on your own. There are risks in doing your own legal work—you don't get the same protection and insurance you do when you hire a regulated lawyer. Other common DIY legal processes are:
- template documents for letting out property or a room in your house
- template documents to record the outcome of an agreement—for example repayments on money someone owes you or to make a loan or provide a guarantee.
One type of legal work that people don't often do themselves is the legal work to buy or sell a house or other property. There are lots of things to think about, and some mortgage providers won't give you a mortgage unless you use a lawyer.
You could lose a lot of money if the property is not owned by the person you are buying from, if ownership is not properly transferred to you, or if the right checks are not made. Using a regulated lawyer gives you protection if things go wrong