Question: I live in Massachusetts and am buying a vacation home in New Hampshire.  I called your office a few weeks ago looking for your legal review of my purchase and sale contract.  Your office told me you couldn’t represent me because you are not licensed to practice law in New Hampshire.  I was referred to helpful New Hampshire attorney.  However, I just got a letter from my lender’s closing attorney, who just happens to be you.  Why can you perform the closing, but couldn’t help me with my contract?

Answer: What an amazing coincidence.  I promise you were not being discriminated against.  I have nothing against vacationing in New Hampshire, in fact, I love the mountains, Story-land and Hampton Beach.  My paralegal was correct to inform you of my unfortunate inability to represent you as a buyer.

I hold a Massachusetts license, which prevents me from practicing law in other states.  Out of state complicated tasks, like conducting trials, as well as procedural matters, like real estate contract review, are all prohibited.  Even though I know plenty about the topic of real estate, representing you in your New Hampshire purchase would amount to the unauthorized practice of law.  A lawyer can be disbarred for such activity, and I will need this job if I hope to someday acquire a vacation home too.

I am, however, allowed to perform your closing due to a statute in New Hampshire specifically authorizing this activity for non-lawyers, or even out of state ones working with a title company.  In New Hampshire, as well as many other states, the equivalent of a Notary Public license is all that is needed.  Typically, large nationally based title companies coordinate and conduct real estate closings.  Of course, a wise lender will still hire an attorney to handle their closings.

Planning a closing is much more than simply pointing to a page and saying “sign here”.  Legal knowledge and thorough oversight is required for even a basic refinance.  Lenders benefit from a lawyer’s knowledge and experience should problems arise.  Massachusetts legislators upheld this viewpoint last year by rejecting a bill aimed at allowing non-lawyers to conduct closings.

I appreciate your confidence in seeking my services.  At least we can meet at your closing.  If the weather gets nicer, perhaps we should schedule the closing near your vacation home on a Friday afternoon.  I’ll help you move in if I can stay the weekend.

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law and estate planning in Billerica at 790 Boston Road.  Contact him with questions at 978-671-0711, prioritylaw.com, hlawoffice.com, or email him at james@hlawoffice.com.

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