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There are good alternatives to LegalZoom. Documents are simple. Wisdom is harder to come by. Consult with a knowledgeable and experieinced estate planning or elder law attorney. Or consult with either the Elderly Clinic or Self-Help Center at the Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Life Care Planning, Estate Protection, Disability,
VA & Medicaid Assistance Lawyers

Why LegalZoom is Not the Answer

LegalZoom LogoI recently had an opportunity to check out some LegalZoom documents.  One of my prospective clients had used the LegalZoom service to prepare some simple trust planning documents. These LegalZoom documents even had powers of attorney.

The documents looked "legal.”  My prospective client did the plan himself, in an hour or two on the weekend, and only spent a few hundred dollars.  He did this in lieu of going to an attorney.  At least he did something, which is far better than not covering the important issue of estate planning.

When my prospective client sought my opinion, my comments were that I thought the documents were fairly simplistic from a technical perspective.  I actually thought they were fairly well-written and clean.  But how will they work compared to what I or one of my elder law attorney colleagues would do?  They were simple, not elegant, and did not cover everything that needed to be covered in my prospective client’s case.  The most important missing component is the documents will not achieve my prospect’s goal of protecting his home and other assets in the event his wife (or he) should need care in a nursing home.

Moreover the documents did not demonstrate insight, personalization, or the awareness of core values important to my prospect.  The documents contained no meaningful guidance into how the trust would be used.  What about asset protection for adult children to protect their inheritance against divorce or bankruptcy?  Moreover, because the trust was revocable, everything put into the trust would be subject to a "spend-down" in the event his wife's medical condition worsen and she needed nursing home care.

Result?  I was retained to do a comprehensive plan to address all the things that were not part of the simple LegalZoom plan. We also looked over their investments, retirement planning, insurance coverage, and an inheritance he was to get from a relative.  I also reached out to my new client's advisers and got their help in taking a second look at all these things to make sure that they were properly handled too.

LegalZoom provides documents.  But I’m reminded by this experience that law is far more than the preparation of documents.  It is about listening, discerning, and identifying core values.  It is about understanding what can keep my clients awake at night.  It is about pulling together resources to resolve those concerns and to put a plan in place.  But, even more important, it is about working to keep that plan tuned up so that as things change, the plan changes as well.  Documents are simple.  Wisdom is harder to come.

For anyone who may not be convinced by my comments, consider the Legal Clinic (Legal Services to Older Persons) at the Southern Illinois University School of Law…a program which I helped set up in 1975 and manage for 18 years prior to establishing my private practice.  At least that program will give you an opportunity to consult with a Senior Law Student who is supervised by a staff attorney.  Alternately, if you insist on doing it yourself, check in with the Self-Help Center at the SIU School of Law.

To read my blog post regarding LegalZoom, go to http://www.habigerelderlaw.com/blog/why-legalzoom-is-not-the-answer.cfm.


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Physical Address
1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: 618-985-4529
Toll Free: 800-336-4529

Mailing Address
1808 Clark Street
Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: (618) 985-4529