Why Not LegalZoom?
So why don’t I just go to LegalZoom for my Will or Trust? LegalZoom is not a law firm and is not allowed to provide legal advice. They can only ask some fairly generic questions, then output a set of forms for you. The problem is that everyone’s situation is different, and this is not a circumstance in which to cut-and-paste information. I had a client ask me once how much does a living trust cost? When I asked him some questions and got enough information to at least provide an estimate, he told me “that’s too much, I was told all the attorney has to do is cut-and-paste some names to create an estate plan”. I thought wow, is that the attorney you want preparing ANYTHING for you? With absolutely zero attention to detail, with zero information about your family situation, and zero information about your desires, you will get an estate plan that the attorney (or computer program, or LegalZoom) wants you to have, not the estate plan that YOU want and need.
Everyone’s Situation is Different
Think about a close friend of yours. One you grew up near, same school, same neighborhood. Is that person’s situation the same as yours? It is in these differences that the trained practitioner is usually most interested. Some people have a family business, others may be expecting an inheritance, perhaps a child with special needs, or a child that has creditor problems or even substance abuse issues. Here is something to consider: how can you know what it is you don’t know? Did you know if you use the standard “boilerplate” language (such that is likely produced by document drafting software, or LegalZoom, or a “Trust Mill”), you can create situations that you never intended? For example, if you want a Trustee to hold certain property for a beneficiary for a period of time, with standard Trustee language you can get the Trustee into some trouble. A Trustee is liable to the beneficiary for certain actions taken or not taken. I’m sure your Trustee doesn’t want to pay money out of his or her pocket because you wanted a cheap living trust.
Why Not Use LegalZoom for my Living Trust or Will?
- They are not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice
- Make sure you compare apples to apples. A proper Revocable Living Trust centered estate plan contains the Living Trust, Certificate of Trust (times 2), Summary of Trust, Pour-over Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Healthcare Directive, HIPPA Release, Funding help, and I include document review meeting, revisions, initial meeting, signing meeting, notary fees, and specific funding.
- They can’t possibly get to know your situation or make suggestions to address your situation
- If you do use LegalZoom for your Will or Living Trust, will LegalZoom be available to help make sure my intentions are upheld? Will LegalZoom step in and provide testimony as to my intent?
- Will LegalZoom pay if a mistake in their forms causes the problem, like an attorney’s malpractice insurance would? (No – See their limited warranty and their ability to change it unilaterally).
- Are there any tax considerations that I may know (or not know) about that are not addressed in my LegalZoom forms?
- In my trust, does LegalZoom tell me what marital deduction formula to select?
- Does LegalZoom consider community property versus separate property and the issue of preserving its tax benefits?
- Does my plan take into consideration the preservation or potential loss of the stepped-up in basis on appreciated assets?
- Do I know what the threshold for estate (death) taxes are on the federal and state level and does LegalZoom counsel me and include the proper language in my will and trust?
- Does LegalZoom consider the best apportionment clause to include (or not include) in my will and trust?
- Does my estate plan provide any protection against my beneficiaries’ bankruptcies, divorces, creditors if they have these issues when I die?
- Is my plan integrated with others in my family? Do I possess a power of appointment that should be addressed in my will or trust? Should I grant one to a beneficiary? What if my spouse and I die simultaneously? Should my will and trust provide that one of us should be considered to have predeceased the other or should we provide that each of us should be considered to have survived the other?
- Will LegalZoom be following-up with any funding issues relating to my trust? Will LegalZoom explain the consequences of beneficiary designations on life insurance, annuities, and retirement plans? Should I name my trust as a beneficiary on these?
- Will LegalZoom inform me if tax or other laws change that may affect my estate plan?
- Will LegalZoom review my documents with me, explain what the provisions mean, revise them to match my goals, and make sure I follow all the signing requirements under state law?
- Please google these terms: “LegalZoom” + “Ripoff Report”.
Why in the world would you risk saving a few hundred dollars now, for the potential of either buying something that is not what you wanted, or something that will cost many thousands of dollars later? An average modest estate in San Diego is likely $500,000 and only goes up from there. Don’t gamble here. Save that for the weekend in Vegas if you like!
See lots of estate planning information on my website at: www.myestate-plan.com
Give me a call today and see how affordable a quality Estate Plan that is 100% attorney advised, and 100% attorney prepared can be.
Thanks for reading my blog.
William Daniel Powell
This document is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this is to be considered legal advice. Nothing in this shall create an attorney/client relationship, nor shall it create a confidential relationship. If you need legal advice (in California), feel free to contact me or someone licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. I assume no liability or responsibility for actions taken, or not taken, as a result of reading this information.
Also, please remember that I speak in generalities in my blog and my website. There are so many different factors that can contribute and completely change the outcome that it would be impractical to discuss all of them here.