The prices advertised by LegalZoom and other automated legal document services make them look very attractive if you’re thinking about creating a will, power of attorney, or other estate planning documents. And these days, with AI doing all the writing and research, it seems to make sense to have a service prepare these “standard” documents for us. However, there are many problems with using automated services for legal documents, primarily because the documents you need are not “standard” at all.
So what are the dangers? To begin with, the documents you get from a service or computer program might not work. They might not be legally valid. Or they might operate in a way that is completely the opposite of what you intended. So if you use a service to create a durable power of attorney to allow your nephew to help pay your bills, the bank might refuse to accept the document and your nephew will be powerless to assist. Or, if you wanted to give your nephew access to only one account because of a compromising family situation, the document might give him access to everything, and your nephew could fall prey to temptation and end up abusing his position of trust.
The same thing could happen with a will. The court might declare it invalid, and your estate would be handled through the laws of intestate succession, or be administered according to the terms of an earlier will that you had not properly revoked. When there’s a problem with an estate planning document, most people don’t learn about it until it’s too late to do anything to fix the problem.
An experienced estate planning attorney, however, would recognize the errors. And that is one of many reasons why it can be so important to consult an attorney, whether you are just starting to create a plan or you already have documents and need to have them reviewed.
A legal document service cannot give you legal advice. A legal document service cannot create a plan designed to reach your goals. A legal document service cannot explain the long-term effects of decisions and help you make the choices that are best for you. As LegalZoom has clearly stated, “LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-service tools. We are not a law firm and do not provide legal advice. The information you provide to LegalZoom is not protected by attorney-client privilege.”
Instead, paying for a legal document service is the equivalent of buying a set of surgical tools and expecting to be able to take out your children’s tonsils. These services can give you the power to do things, but not the knowledge to understand what to do or how to do it properly.
Whether you realize it or not, your plans for the future of your property and your medical health are affected by an array of circumstances and not just a single document or two. To ensure that things are handled the way you want, you have to understand how to see the big picture and how to make the right arrangements. An experienced estate planning attorney will show you how everything connects and develop a plan to meet your goals.
We at Jordan & White, LLC, are happy to talk to you about how we can protect you and your family much better than LegalZoom. Contact your estate planning attorneys on the North Shore of Massachusetts today at 978-744-2811 or visit us online.