Using Legal Zoom Vs A Lawyer For A Will

A will is a legal document that sets out your wishes for what will happen to your property, assets and children after you die. It’s really important that you get one written so that your family know what to do when you pass away. A will is also know legally as a “Last Will & Testament”.

If one dies without a will , you end up Intestate- meaning the government will take care of distributing your assets for you. While this may not seem a big deal, it could potentially end with the sale of shared family homes or property- leaving your loved ones in a bad situation. If you have young children, you’ll want to make sure they fall into the best care possible. By writing a will, you can carefully choose who is best to look after them. For example, you may have a long-term partner who would be the most natural carer for your kids- but if you aren’t married, the state wouldn’t hand them over by default. Should you have specific wishes for your funeral, or what happens with your body- this will all be lined out in the will too.

There are a few ways you can get a will written up. Most people go to a lawyer to get a will written up, but in recent years it’s been a growing trend to use online legal companies like LegalZoom. LegalZoom allows their customers to create certain legal documents online- without the need for hiring a lawyer. LegalZoom offers these documents at a really low price compared to lawyer fees, but at what cost?

While LegalZoom’s website may seem promising, it doesn’t hold a penny to hiring a real lawyer, who has spent years studying the system. While LegalZoom gives customers the impression that they’re in the safe hands of a lawyer- they aren’t really. All you’re doing with LegalZoom is filling in the blanks on standard document templates, and there’s no customization to fit your personal situation. These documents are known as ‘canned’ documents.

By writing your will with LegalZoom, it’s likely that you’ll miss out important information. Even worse, the will could end up invalid, leaving your family members without their deserved assets. Once you’re gone, there’s nothing you can do to fix the situation- so it’s better to spend that extra bit of money on a lawyer to make sure it’s done properly.

On the subject of money, LegalZoom doesn’t actually work out as cheap as it is advertised. While the initial fees may be low, the company have been known to hit customers with big surprise fees. They like to reel people in with a ’30 day free trial’ which leaves customers paying a monthly fee. Even if you do end up getting a will written for a bargain price- it won’t be sufficient, and you’ll end up paying lawyer fees down the road to amend it. To save your time and money, find a reputable lawyer- don’t get caught up by sites like LegalZoom.

I’d like to include this quote from estate lawyer Joanne Fanizza. This is what she had to say about canned documents like the ones provided through Legal Zoom.

“I have had several clients come to me with pre-prepared documents that were either completely invalid, didn’t do what they were supposed to do, or required a lot of legal work afterwards to fix the mess they got the clients in. Some were wills, others were trusts, some were corporation papers and other were contracts. In each case, the client wound up paying more.”

Instead of risking your money, time, and even problems in court- find a reputable lawyer that specializes in estate planning. Yes, it will cost you more than a canned document on LegalZoom, but not really. A simple will drawn up by a lawyer can cost between $100 and $220, which isn’t that expensive at all. The price of your will increases depending on what needs to be covered. For example, the price will go up if you’ve been divorced, had children, or own trusts/ oversea properties. It might cost extra, but at least you’ll have peace of mind that everything you need is included.

Once your will is written, a solicitor will usually store it away in a fireproof safe. This means your will is safe, and there’s no risk of it being invalidated. Another benefit of hiring a solicitor is that you’re protected if something goes wrong. Since solicitor’s firms are a regulated industry, you won’t be out of pocket if something isn’t right with the will and needs amending. With big online companies like Legalzoom, it’s much harder to resolve issues. They don’t have anywhere near the customer service a law firm has. You’ll have to email to get in touch with them, and they won’t get to you as quickly.

Your will should be reviewed every 5 years, or if there’s a big change in your situation, for example, marriage, divorce, becoming a parent or moving to a new house. You also need to update your will if your executor dies. An executor is somebody you place in charge of taking care of your remaining financial matters- such as bills and taxes. To get a will amended, you must sign a codicil- which is just a fancy word for ‘official alteration’. Any alterations to a will must be signed by a witness. Your lawyer will advise you on all of this when you create a will with them, and they’ll provide guidance you could never get from an online company.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with some valuable information for when you start to write your will. It’s important to realize that quick-fix, cheap legal websites such as LegalZoom should really be avoided. A will is a very important document- and so needs to be written properly, personalized to your individual circumstances. If you are worried about what will happen to your assets after you’re gone- start thinking about your will today.

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