Why do I along with most other estate planning attorneys love Legal Zoom and other do-it-yourself estate planning forms? Because those who used Legal Zoom for their Will, Trust or other estate planning documents will likely eventually find their way to an attorney to fix the mess that using LegalZoom created. (Truth be told, I don’t really like Legal Zoom at all…because of the misconceptions regarding the services provided).
Attorneys make far more money fixing problems resulting from the use of these do-it-yourself jobs; where we would only have made several hundred dollars if the individuals had come to us in the first place to have their estate planning documents properly prepared.
I can’t blame Legal Zoom or the other do-it-yourself folks, because all those services do is prepare documents based on the information you give them. They don’t offer ANY LEGAL ADVICE! In fact, the people that work on your documents are not attorneys and they cannot by law give legal advice. Don’t believe me?
Check out Legal Zoom’s own Disclaimer at http://www.legalzoom.com/universal/disclaimer.html, which states:
“LegalZoom is not a law firm, and the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney. LegalZoom does not practice law and does not give legal advice. … Instead, you are representing yourself in any legal matter you undertake through LegalZoom’s legal document service. … At no time do we review your answers for legal sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide legal advice or apply the law to the facts of your particular situation. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.”
I am not joking…the last sentence is actual on their website, and yes, they even emphasized it in BOLD.
The ironic thing is that they claim to save you HUNDREDS or even THOUSANDS of dollars on your estate planning documents over using an attorney YET in their disclaimer they admit they are no substitute for an attorney…
Do I find Legal Zoom’s representations to be misleading? Absolutely.
That’s because I can’t imagine why ANYONE would throw away money on a document preparation service that does no more than fill out a form and check for spelling errors… The fact is MOST people that use Legal Zoom don’t read the disclaimer and actually believe that Legal Zoom is looking out for them like their attorney would.
In reality, your estate planning attorney is not there to merely fill out a form. Instead I, along with other estate planners use our knowledge to prepare an estate plan based on your unique circumstances and in a manner that will effectuate your wishes after your death.
Your estate planning lawyer knows a lot of stuff that you couldn’t possibly know. We’ve learned a lot through our years of education and our experience, especially in probating estates and learning from the mistakes others made.
Ultimately, as the beneficiaries of the estate of individuals who used Legal Zoom, wrote their own Will or used some other do-it-yourself form discovered… we may actually be less expensive than the alternative.
To be completely honest with you, although do-it-yourself estate planning documents may be great for my bank account… they may not be good for yours.
If you are one of the many people out there in the Boise area that has a do-it-yourself estate plan…call an experienced estate planning lawyer before it’s too late! It may save your loved ones a lot of time and money after you are gone.
UPDATE: There is a Class Action lawsuit pending in Missiouri against Legal Zoom for the unauthorized practice of law in that state. You can see the Complaint here.