Read the fine print: Legal office is here to help

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
You've just test-driven multiple vehicles and heard the car salesman's pitch about each car's horsepower and handling. After spending hours at the dealership, you just want nothing more than to leave with your new set of wheels.

However, the only thing separating you from the keys is buried under dozens of signature lines. Signing it may end your wait, but you still have many doubts about the contract's inconceivable interest rate or its extra warranties you may never use.  

The base legal office can assist you with situations like this along with wills, powers of attorney and landlord-tenant issues among other services, all offered free of charge. The legal office is available to assist active-duty service members and their family, retirees, reservists or guardsmen on Title 10 orders, and Department of Defense contractors going on overseas orders to support a base unit.

"The advantage to that is a lot of times we see the young Airmen buying vehicles that are absolutely ridiculous," said Senior Airman Christopher Guthrie, paralegal with 1st Special Operations Wing legal office. "They don't know what they are signing. The car dealerships sometimes like to drag out the process so you're just tired, so when the paperwork comes you are just sign, sign, sign."

Contract review is one of the many services that legal provides which can save customers from frustrations and from spending unnecessary money. Common documents that can be reviewed are automobile leases, housing contracts and divorce forms in addition to others.

Another common problem the legal office can help address is landlord-tenant issues. The legal office ensures landlords don't try to cheat renters out of receiving their security deposits back either by charging extraneous fees or not following proper state laws.

"Within 30 days the landlord has to say why they're withholding the security deposit from you and if they don't document it you are able to get all of your money back, no questions asked," Guthrie said.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act also accords members many protections that the legal office can facilitate. One of the protections SCRA provides is the ability for service members to break landlord or automobile leases any time they get permanent change of station orders or go on TDY for more than 60 days.

"We can get you out of that without any penalty to you because you are a service member," Guthrie said. "That's one of the protections."

Deployments and the dangerous nature of military service make wills and powers of attorney legal necessities. Wills state what you want done with your possessions in the event of your death. Powers of attorney allow someone to act on your behalf in case you need someone to manage your finances or sell a vehicle in your absence.

"Without a will, sometimes family members will fight over your possessions," Guthrie said. "Then it'll have to go to court and it might take a while to get done. A will takes those questions out."

Any time there is a change you must ensure that you regularly update your legal documents as well to avoid complications.

"An Airman marries his wife and they get divorced, later on he gets remarried and passes away," Guthrie explains. "Well, he never updated his will so all of his possessions end up going back to his first wife because that's what the will stated, so it's very important to always update."

The base legal office has expanded their walk-in hours to better help customers. The range of services offered has also been broadened to provide more extensive legal assistance.

"Now we're taking on cases that might take two or three months to complete, but we're helping people from start to finish with an entire case," Guthrie said. "Whether that's to prepare them for court or contact a creditor or a landlord, basically we've just expanded what we can do for everyone to better our members' readiness."

For legal assistance, call 884-5169 or for wills call 884-7821, legal worksheets for wills and powers of attorney are available at