Using www.legalzoom.com for a will?
October 16, 2006 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Anyone had a will prepared through www.legalzoom.com? Care to share how it went? Or have recommendations to another online "will mill", or strong arguments against using one?

Mom, upon hearing I bought a new motorcycle, asked if I had a will. No, she didn't also ask if she was on it.

I don't have a will and I've decided that mom has a point, it's time.

I'm in my mid-30's, single, no kids. My "estate" is relatively simple - no real estate, several 401k and brokerage accounts that I'd like to go to family and not the state should I kick the bucket and also a smattering of property (vehicles, equipment) that I'd like to go to some close friends.

I'd prefer to give the legal profession as little money as possible as I have little faith in it. Specifically, an estate-planning lawyer botched an amendment to a family member's will of which I was a beneficiary. It ended up in litigation.

However, I also want a valid will. Legalzoom supposedly performs a paralegal review of the will that their web site generates for you based on a questionnaire.

If anyone can offer some pros/cons beyond "You'll shoot your eye out kid" type warnings, I'm all ears.
posted by de void to Law & Government (6 answers total)
 
I used legalzoom for an LLC doc. I was satisfied, but not thrilled. I ended up doing a lot of work on it myself. It was not out of the box ready after answering their on-line questions. And, I only got a printed copy (on nice paper). I asked to get the agreement written for me on a disk, but they said that would be extra. I ended up retyping the entire doc so I could make changes. I did make the mistake of doing it all online wothout ever talking to a live person until after the fact. I might have been able to avert some of the dislocation I felt if I had talked to them first.

If I had to do it again, i would lower my expectations and depending on how worried I was about some of the specific State issues, I would consider paying up for a face to face meeting with a lawyer. On the other hand, they did a lot of the legwork I needed to file with the gov't and get a tax id number etc.

In summary, you get value for what you pay, but you are not paying a lot so it is not like meeting with Skadden Arps or even a good local attorney.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:03 AM on October 16, 2006


I checked out Nolo's Simple Will Book from the public library and used one of their fill-in-the-blank wills. It works great if your needs are very simple. It also explains everything, and tells you whether you might need to see a lawyer to do something more complicated.

(Nolo Press has a good reputation for do-it-yourself legal information.)
posted by mbrubeck at 11:12 AM on October 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


IANAL but it sounds like you could avoid probate all together because of the size of your estate; however, for many reasons, including each state has different probate laws, you should meet with a lawyer to discuss that option. Probate can be expensive because of of executor fees and court costs.

While you might have reason to be lawyer-shy, maybe you just need to find one you trust for whatever reasons. Probate law is pretty strict and unforgiving. I mean I don't trust mechanics but if I avoid the experts I am sure not to get high quality of work taylored to my specific needs.
posted by JakeLL at 11:32 AM on October 16, 2006


I was just looking into this myself. I haven't used it yet, so I can't make any endorsements, but after checking out the options, I decided to go with Quicken Willmaker 2007. It should cost about half of what legalzoom.com charges, and you'll have a digital, updatable copy instead of just a printout.

One note; if you decide to go that route, for some reason the application is cheaper if you buy it bundled with a book. It's supposed to be the exact same program.
posted by designbot at 12:24 PM on October 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'd prefer to give the legal profession as little money as possible as I have little faith in it

You're still dealing with the legal profession. It's just a situation where they're paying even less attention than the circumstances in which you've had problems before. Ask people you know for their recomendations for a really good lawyer.
posted by winston at 1:23 PM on October 16, 2006


"...I'd like to go to family and not the state should I kick the bucket"

It is unlikely that any of your property would escheat to the state. In New Jersey (where your profile says you are located), your parents would be the beneficiaries of your estate automatically via intestate succession if you didn't have a will. [The 401k might have a separate POD (pay-on-death) provision that you filled out when you opened the account.]
If you mean minimizing the tax burden, that requires more advanced planning and I would reccommend seeing a lawyer or least a financial advisor.

The language of the will is only half the battle. Signing the will correctly so that it becomes valid is the other half. Make sure you get 2 reliable witnesses. They should be people the court can easily find (i.e. people who are likely to stay in the area), and people who are not going to be beneficiaries under the will. Hopefully legalzoom provides you with guidance on whether you need to get a notary involved.

In any event, the State of New Jersey Court provides a very infromative guide to wills.

Like JohnnyGunn says, the reason these types of wills are so cheap is because you're getting boilerplate with little consultation concerning your specific circumstances.

I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. But you don't want advice from a real lawyer anyway so it all works out.
posted by falconred at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2006


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