OK, so does LegalZoom suck or what?

I’m starting this thread so as not to derail the “I would like to write my own will” thread.

Someone in that thread insinuated that LegalZoom wills may be more zoom than legal. I’ve used LegalZoom to write a simple will. Do I have reason to be concerned that it will somehow be problematic? What would the problems be? (Let’s make the assumption that the will is NOT contested by anyone, that I have obtained prior permission from the person I named as executor, etc.)

When I had my will done by a lawyer he used a basic template and just filled in the blanks by asking us questions. I don’t see why a normal person couldn’t do that via something like legalZoom if the will is simple.

What the lawyer did for us, other than typing in our answers, was to suggest alterative methods of doing thing. For example, he suggested wording that would distribute money to our kids at intervals (1/3 at 25 years old, 1/3 at 30 years old, etc.) I wouldn’t have thought of that or known how to word it myself.

When I took estates law (from a practicing estates lawyer, so understand that she was theoretically a competitor to these products) she said that the forms are usually valid if used properly. However, because there’s no lawyer there to vet it, someone might not understand that their situation is different enough than the norm that a basic form won’t work for them.

But the real problem, she said, which had led to many form wills being thrown out, was a failure in execution. At common law, for a will to be valid, three non-beneficiaries had to witness the testator sign, and then they all had to witness each other sign as well. That’s become looser over time (the standard is now two witnesses, and if a witness is interested in the will, esp. in a minor way, courts will often just void that bequest instead of the whole doc). But they’re still quite strict, much, much stricter than the formalities required to make a contract.

So for instance if you sign your will in the presence of the appropriate number of witnesses, but then one of them goes to get a coke in the other room while another signs the witness statement, that can vitiate the will.

Wills aren’t that expensive if they’re simple, and if they’re not simple, you definitely shouldn’t be using a form. Of course I’m a lawyer too (not an estates lawyer), so you should understand my biases as well.

–Cliffy

Same thing with doing your taxes. Lots of people can do it on their own just as well. The benefit of having a professional is that they see things you didn’t, or as **shiftless **says, suggest something you didn’t think of.

A legal zoom will is perfectly valid, presuming you follow the directions correctly. But frankly, I’m baffled by people’s reluctance to get a lawyer to do their will. The cost isn’t that much more ($79 versus $150-200) and it’s an important document.

My guess would be the fact that most people don’t know a lawyer and are hesitant to just pick a name out of the phone book. They expect 1) a random lawyer to be dishonest, or 2) the process to be prohibitively expensive.

I saw one that wasn’t a legal zoom will but rather a competing product and for some reason they specified California law as the choice of law. That was unusual because the person whose will it was isn’t a California resident nor are they likely to become one.

Yes it does suck. I don’t know anything about it, but based on the commercials I assume it sucks.

Laws vary from state to state, so filing a California will in Ohio may be problematic.

It’s a good idea if you’re trying to sell a national product. Every state has its own rules, but as the author of the form, you aren’t going to know which state your customers live in. So you pick a state for whatever reason, then you make sure your form complies with the law of that state. That way you don’t really have to worry if Delaware has some wonky rule that will mess everything up. For the most part, states will apply the substantive law of another state when construing a legal document that says to do so, under the (correct) understanding that the author of that document chose that state because he felt its legal provisions were most appropriate (or at least well understood).

Of course there are policy rules which a state won’t ignore – for instance, some states used to, and may still, prohibit disowning a current spouse. Others allow you to do it, but require language to that effect in the will. If your will doesn’t comport with those rules, you wouldn’t expect the state to go along. But in stuff like method of asset calculation? Sure.

–Cliffy

Perhaps but it can make it a pain in the ass to interpret for the practitioner in the local jurisdiction and it may drive up probate costs depending.

I used it for a will and a living trust. I had a good experience with it.

I’m an analyst sort, who likes to over-analyze everything. So I’d feel rushed dealing with a real lawyer, since I wouldn’t want to have him bill me for four hours of me asking questions.

The process let’s you stop and save and come back later. So when a question makes you think, you can take a day and discuss it with your spouse and come back to it. I heard that the reason most people don’t have wills, for instance, is not being able to come to an agreement about who gets the kids. You can skip that part if you want and complete it later.

I’d say if you prefer to do your taxes online with Turbo Tax, this is for you. If you’d rather do them with an actual accountant, I’d go to a a lawyer.

Personally, every time I’ve gone to an accountant for my taxes I feel like I pay more money for a lower quality product than if I just did it myself online. The only years I do it are when I have a complex issue that needs specific advice like selling an investment property.

A co-worker of mine drew up divorce papers using legal zoom, submitted them to the court, and got a divorce for not much money. The documents were fully accepted by the court.

The question isn’t so much whether you had a good experience, as whether your heirs will have a good experience when the time comes.

Has anyone here any experience in probating a will prepared using LegalZoom?

Understand the sentiment, but just want to point out that most lawyers charge a flat fee for doing a will.

Plus, most lawyers have a check-list that they either go through with you, or may send to you before the meeting, for you to fill out, to get all the mundane stuff done as quickly as possible.

I’ve never once seen a sentence improved by adding “OK, so” to the front of it. See how much better the title sounds if you skip the first two words?

It was kind of an attempt at humor. (I could also have left the last two words off without in any way detracting from the actual informational content of the sentence.)

This is the issue. I imagine that unless there are glaring errors or someone wants to contest it and it is gone over with a fine-toothed comb, any presentable document will do in roughly the right form.

If you just want to split the estate between two siblings, and they won’t fight - simple. If you want to get the least bit complex with conditions and divisions, probably best to get professional help.

Your local lawyer will use a software package similar to LZ, to draft a will. And unless there are a lot of strange situations (you need to provide for a pack of 300 dogs till they die), the results will be pretty much the same.

With regard to wills, here’s a tip I picked up from my father’s lawyer. Don’t keep your will in your own safe deposit box. It’s a real PITA to get into it when you’re gone. You should keep your will in your spouse’s SDB and vice versa.

or: take a tip from me, Peanuthead. Die broke. :stuck_out_tongue: