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Teenagers often try to shift blame for breaking rules, misunderstanding assignments, or missing deadlines with statements like, “I asked Joe and he said it wasn’t important,” or “I heard that they never enforce those rules.” Of course, some teenagers retaining their adolescent gullibility and inattentiveness into adulthood and discover that grown-up mistakes have grown-up consequences. This article emphasizes the importance of paying attention and confirming important business details in the grown-up world.

The world is a busy place for most people, and it is easy to take things on faith without verifying details. The increasing emphasis on getting things done quickly makes many people feel uncomfortable with taking the time to read documents carefully, seek expert advice, ask questions, or request written confirmations. Instead, many people press forward in business matters and assume that everyone else is paying attention to the details and behaving professionally. Unfortunately, hustle and bustle makes complacency in business matters very dangerous, because hasty people make unnecessary mistakes.

These are some examples of errors of haste and inattention that clients have hired us to resolve after the fact:

  • In a mortgage loan transaction, the title and loan documents described the wrong real estate, and the documents were signed and recorded before anyone discovered the mistake (we have seen this multiple times over the last 25 years, and as recently as fall 2017).
  • A spouse or other family member of a nursing home resident made unnecessary or harmful changes to retirement plans, insurance policies, and other assets to qualify the nursing home resident for Medicaid without consulting an experienced elder law attorney, because an apparently trustworthy person suggested the changes.
  • A salesperson told the customer in a phone conversation that deal would include important details and a warranty, but the company refused to deliver all the details or fix defects because the sale documents did not mention the details or warranty.

So, what can a person do to avoid these kinds of problems? US President Ronald Reagan would say, “Trust, but verify,” as he famously told Soviet Union General Secretary Mikael Gorbachev many times during their nuclear disarmament talks in the 1980s. Everyone could benefit by using President Reagan’s mantra in important matters. These are some simple, lifestyle habits that can help people avoid headaches and heartaches of sloppy business transactions:

  • Read documents carefully, ask probing questions, and request written clarification or explanation of details that do not seem clear or easy to understand.
  • Consult with an experienced attorney if the stakes of a decision or action are costly enough that a person cannot afford to replace something, repair defects, or lose a desired result.
  • In important or expensive actions, insist on written confirmation of all verbal statements about important transaction details such as quality, quantity, included items, or warranties.

No person involved in legitimate business will object when someone takes time to verify details and make sure that everything is correct. In fact, one of the best signs of a shady or unstable business matter is a person who expresses frustration or amusement about another person’s caution and attention to important details. The worst threat to a crooked or sloppy business person is a customer who pays attention to details and insist on getting the details in writing.

Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers and active members of the Indiana State Bar Association and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Both lawyers are admitted to practice law in Indiana, and Jeff Hawkins is admitted to practice law in Illinois. Jeff is also a registered civil mediator, a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the Indiana Bar Foundation;  a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Indiana Association of Mediators; and he was the 2014-15 President of the Indiana State Bar Association.

Find more information about these and other topics at www.HawkinsLaw.com, add us to your Google+ circles, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @HawkinsLawPC or call us at 812-268-8777. © Copyright 2017 Hawkins Law PC. All rights reserved.