LegalZoom is an online legal form provider; you’ve likely seen the commercials on television. Don’t be fooled; LegalZoom and other online estate planning form providers are not the same as working with an estate planning attorney. In fact, LegalZoom is being sued in the state of California in a class action suit, representing about 3,000 California residents, who bought their estate planning forms.
Why is LegalZoom being sued?
LegalZoom is being sued for practicing law without a license and misrepresentative business practices. To protect the public, only licensed attorneys can give legal advice. To my knowledge, no LegalZoom attorneys work with you and no attorneys review the estate planning documents.
LegalZoom claims that working with them is as good as working with an attorney and that they guarantee their service. Neither is true.
Here’s What Happened in the California Case
A California resident asked his niece to help him with his estate planning; they downloaded forms from LegalZoom and he signed the forms.
No financial institutions would honor the LegalZoom revocable living trust as valid, so none of the uncle’s assets were titled in the name of the trust when he died. Probate was not avoided and the named trustee had no authority over the assets. LegalZoom’s customer service refused to provide assistance.
Probate in California is extremely expensive. In addition, the will was not properly executed and, therefore, was not legally valid.
The niece had to hire an estate planning attorney to straighten out the very big mess. This LegalZoom fiasco cost the uncle’s estate (meaning his beneficiaries) thousands of dollars, much stress, hassle, and time.
How LegalZoom is Different
Downloading forms from LegalZoom is different than working with a qualified estate planning attorney.
- An estate planning attorney gathers all of your financial and personal information and guides you to specific estate planning documents that are appropriate for you; LegalZoom does not.
- An estate planning attorney customizes your estate plan and estate planning documents based upon your individual situation; LegalZoom does not (entering your loved ones names into a computer field is not customization.)
- An estate planning attorney drafts documents that are honored by financial institutions and medical professionals; LegalZooms’s documents are not always honored.
- An estate planning attorney ensures that your documents are legally executed so they are valid; LegalZoom does not.
- An estate planning attorney can ensure that your assets are properly owned so that your estate plan works; LegalZoom does not.
- An estate planning attorney is there for updating your plan as life and the law change and for your family should you become incapacitated or die; LegalZoom is not.
If you’ve downloaded estate planning forms and are fearful they may not work, call our office at (858) 792-5988 for a consultation. We’d be happy to help you get your estate plan in order.