Monday, June 27, 2011

Legal Zoom around the room

Photo and real-life inspiration courtesy of Brian F. Murn, Esq. 
When you show up in Court, you don't expect to see this as the attorney you are up against:

(if you can't see the wording on the folder, it says "LEGAL ZOOM.COM")

Lets get one thing straight- Legal Zoom is not a lawyer. Its a website, allegedly run and maintained by lawyers. Its also been sued several times, for the unauthorized practice of law.

"Wait, but its run by that ROBERT SHAPIRO guy! He defended OJ! So its gotta be good!"

Yes, Robert Shapiro of the O.J. Simpson defense team, is a spokesperson and founder. Yes, Robert Shapiro also has another online venture, related to the O.J. Simpson trial and its aftermath, the aptly named, where he and one of his late defense team member's "famous" daughters, have teamed up.

Can it help you start your business? Sure*. Write a will or trust? Yes*.

(Items with an * should be translated as having the minimum level of competency, and you better hope you don't need any sophisticated planning, advice, or have a complicated family structure. )

A good example of what LegalZoom canNOT do is given here:                                  

Top 10 Planning Scenarios Not Covered by LegalZoom
By: Teresa A. Bush, Esq. (InterActive Legal)

1. Clients who want to leave property to specific people or charities if spouse/descendants are not living.
2. Clients who want to ensure property stays in the family line, rather than passing to son-in-law or daughter-in-law if a child dies.
3. Clients with disabled children/beneficiaries (or who would like to include provisions to apply in case a child develops a disability later in life).
4. Clients who want to include special provisions for beneficiaries who develop substance abuse problems.
5. Clients who would like to protect property from creditors and provide management by leaving it in trust for their spouse.
6. Clients who would like to have property sprinkled out to children at different ages – such as 1/3 at 25, 1/3 at 35, and 1/3 at 45.
7. Clients who would like to put property in trust for children, but make sure all income is given to the child each year.
8. Clients with children from prior marriages, where they may want to exclude certain children, or include step-children.
9. Clients who live in a state where there is state estate taxation.
10. Clients with specific residency issues, such as community property state residents, resident aliens, or clients with property in several states.

Still not enough reasons to make you go use a real lawyer? 

Take a look at this sample legal zoom will, with comments from an established attorney here. Its just not the same thing. Maybe that's why its cheaper?

Countless attorneys have already written on this, but as long as the internet is around, there are going to be "internet attorneys." Use them at your own peril, and feel confident that the money you saved by not going to a real lawyer on the front end will be spent and multiplied out of your estate in handling the mess that you created. 

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