LegalZoom is a do-it yourself document preparation service that was founded by lawyers. LegalZoom wants you to believe that the process of preparing legal documents is as simple as filing in the blanks on standardized forms. The company’s ads promise “common” legal documents at a fraction of the cost an attorney would charge to prepare them. LegalZoom was founded by a group of attorneys, so that means that legal documents must be reliable right? Wrong!
The fact that LegalZoom was founded by lawyers is irrelevant. LegalZoom is not a law firm and they will not give legal advice. They can be compared to what is referred to in California as “Legal Document Assistants” or an LDA. There are basically no requirements to become a LDA. The only requirements are that you have no felonies on your record, you have a high school diploma, and two years of either education or experience in the legal field. That is ALL!! In contrast, lawyers must not only attain a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctorate, they must also pass the bar exam in whatever state they plan to practice law.
Because the LDA is not an attorney, they cannot give any legal advice. This means that LegalZoom can not offer you any advice, opinions, or assistance when preparing your legal documents. If LegalZoom did give advice, those founders I mentioned earlier would lose their law licenses. So, you can believe that no advice is given by LegalZoom. In fact, LegalZoom specifically states that in its disclaimer. Here is a summary of LegalZoom’s disclaimer: 1) the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney 2) their documents are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney 3) they do not review your answers for legal sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide legal advice or apply the law to the facts of your particular situation, and 4) the legal information on LegalZoom’s website is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date.
I don’t know about you but that last one troubles me the most. People depend on these legal documents to protect them and their family especially when it comes to planning their estates. But the problem with LegalZoom’s estate planning kits is that they give a false sense of security. People create documents using LegalZoom believing that all their needs in estate planning are addressed without realizing that they are not valid, especially in Louisiana. Many of their forms specifically state: Not Valid in Louisiana. With estate planning documents, the problems are unlikely to be discovered until after someone dies. The people who will be left to deal with the mistakes are usually the people the documents were supposed to protect.
Both you and your loved ones deserve the advice of a lawyer who considers your particular situation and needs. You deserve legal advice that is correct, complete, and up-to-date. Yes, you might save money by using LegalZoom now. But how much will it cost your loved ones in the long run?
Lawyers do not simply fill in forms. They consider your situation, your family, and your needs. They use their knowledge that was acquired over many years of school and practice to advise you on the best way to protect your family and preserve and distribute your assets in the manner your choose. You and your family are worth
it, don’t you think?