Legal DIY Sites Are No Match for a Professional

Websites like LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer cost much less than going to a real lawyer. These websites can help you create your Will, Power of Attorney and other valuable legal documents. But are they really worth it?

Consumer Reports evaluated these three website services and came up with some interesting results. Using the online worksheets and downloads they created a Will, a car Bill of Sale for a seller, a Home Lease for a small landlord and a Promissory Note. After consulting three Law Professors from Texas Tech, Hofstra and Yale to review the process and resulting documents, here is what they found.

“Using any of the three services is generally better than drafting the documents yourself without legal training or not having them at all. But unless your needs are simple – say, you want to leave your entire estate to your spouse – none of the will-writing products is likely to entirely meet your needs. And in some cases, the other documents aren’t specific enough or contain language that could lead to an ‘unintended result’…

In some cases, the services aren’t very flexible. WillMaker Plus (from Nolo), for instance, won’t let a child’s trust go beyond age 35, though the law puts no upper age limits on when a trust must dissolve. In other instances, they are too flexible; after we finished the Rocket Lawyer interview, the program allowed us to edit the completed Will. LegalZoom let us put anything we liked in the special-directives section, the part of the Will where you can include issues not addressed in the interview. Both features could lead a user to add clauses that contradict other parts of the Will.

Bottom line. The sites offer basic legal advice that might help save you money spent on a lawyer. If you use them for document prep, at minimum get all needed signatures to preserve your rights and prevent disputes…

But many consumers are better off consulting a lawyer. The websites let you search for one and provide such information as education, background and licenses. LegalZoom’s subscription legal service includes customer reviews of lawyers, and Rocket Lawyer’s details pricing.”

In sum, Consumer Reports suggests meeting with a real lawyer. We at Hornstein Law Offices could not agree more. A real lawyer will listen to your concerns and ask the proper questions to move forward with a Will or Living Trust. We will also ensure that there is nothing contradictory in the Will or Trust that could lead to complications in the future.

Even if you decide to use one of these Do-It-Yourself websites, it is a smart idea to have a lawyer review what you have done to make sure you have not made any careless mistakes and can spot any potential problems.