Downloading forms from the internet or copying forms from a book at the library are not the same as getting individual advice from an estate planning attorney, no matter what LegalZoom says. LegalZoom, the “big daddy” of online legal forms, is being sued in California for practicing law without a license and deceptive business practices. The case is a class action case, representing approximately 3,000 Californians who have purchased estate planning documents from LegalZoom.
In the California case, a woman helped her uncle download and execute estate planning forms provided by LegalZoom because the company had indicated that their services were guaranteed, just as good as working with an attorney, and would be legally valid. They were not.
The executed revocable living trust was NOT honored by any financial institutions so none of the uncle’s assets were funded into the trust when he died. This is a very big deal, especially in California, because the state’s probate fees are extremely high.
In addition, the will was not legally executed and, therefore, was not valid.
What a mess! This mess, caused by using LegalZoom, cost the uncle’s estate (i.e. his beneficiaries) thousands of dollars and untold stress. The cost was much more than if the uncle had consulted with a qualified estate planning attorney, in the first place.
Downloading forms from the internet, even if they are filled in with the information you enter, may not be honored when you need them because they have not been prepared by an attorney, don’t fit your individual situation, or are not executed correctly.
If you don’t have an up-to-date estate plan that meets your individual needs and that was prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney, you can’t count on it to work. Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.
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