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Although the advice and assistance of a licensed attorney is recommended before undertaking a legal matter, there are a number of situations in which an individual may choose to proceed pro se—without representation. When an individual chooses to proceed without an attorney, he or she must often locate free legal documents to help prepare the case or accomplish the task. Free legal documents are often available through court websites or offices, or by contacting non-profit agencies such as a legal aid society or online, in some cases.
A person may need free legal documents to complete legal forms such as a last will and testament or a power of attorney. In many cases, the best place to look for free local documents of this sort is through non-profit agencies such as a local legal aid society or agencies devoted to elder issues, such as the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP). Agencies such as these often provide sample forms or fill-in-the-blank forms for simple, commonly-used legal documents. If they do not have the appropriate form, they may be able to provide direction to an agency that does have the form.
Another great resource for commonly-used legal forms are local, state, or national bar associations. A bar association is a group of attorneys that often produce consumer pamphlets or brochures to educate consumers about legal issues. The educational materials they publish may also include free legal documents for use by consumers.
If the free legal documents sought are documents necessary to commence a legal action in a court of law, the court itself is frequently the best source for forms. Many court websites or court offices have a self-help section that provides basic information for litigants. As part of the self-help section, many courts also provide legal forms necessary to file or answer a lawsuit. Keep in mind, however, that courts cannot give a litigant legal advice. Therefore, anyone who chooses to utilize the free legal documents provided is expected to understand the law as well as know which forms are necessary and how to fill them out.
As a last resort, an individual may search the internet for free legal documents. There are a number of sites where free legal documents of all types may be found. A person should exercise caution, however, when using forms located on the internet, as there is no guarantee that the form complies to the laws of the jurisdiction where the form is to be filed or used.
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