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Oftentimes, things are more complicated than they initially appear to be.
I am occasionally contacted by people who need a will and are considering do-it-yourself (DIY) legal websites like LegalZoom or buying forms or software at an office supply store.
The cheap prices of DIY legal websites like LegalZoom are attractive. They are typically $200-300 cheaper than the rates offered by our law firm for will drafting.
People are rightfully concerned whether LegalZoom’s documents are correct, complete, and up-to-date. LegalZoom’s own disclaimer speaks for itself about its inadequacy and unreliability in being a substitute for an attorney:
- legal information on this site . . . is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date. Because the law changes rapidly, is different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and is also subject to varying interpretations by different courts and certain government and administrative bodies, LegalZoom cannot guarantee that all the information on the site is completely current. The law is a personal matter, and no general information or legal tool like the kind LegalZoom provides can fit every circumstance.
- LegalZoom’s legal document service is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.
- LegalZoom is not permitted to engage in the practice of law.
- LegalZoom is prohibited from providing any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.
- Instead, you are representing yourself in any legal matter you undertake through LegalZoom’s legal document service.
I won’t criticize LegalZoom, but they have been criticized by a number of legal authorities such as
- The Problem with LegalZoom (And Other Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning Solutions)
- LegalZoom vs. Lawyer: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
- LegalZoom and the dangers of DIY estate planning
One concern with legal websites like LegalZoom is that you don’t know if there are errors in a will until it’s too late (after a death). The stakes are especially high when you are not blood or marriage related: if a will is not given effect, the assets of the person who died will go to the next of kin in accordance with each state’s particular default rules for people who die without wills.
If you are going to spend the money on a will, you should do it right by hiring an attorney. I realize this sounds self-serving, but when caring for loved ones is involved, it’s not worth saving $200 or $300 with such risks. It reminds me of the old saying: Penny wise, pound foolish.