LegalDoom: Cookie Cutter Estate Planning Site LegalZoom Being Sued For Flawed Documents
In 2007, Anthony J. Ferrantino was suffering from a terminal illness, so he sought the assistance of his niece to help him write a Last Will and Testament and Revocable Living Trust. They decided to use a popular web site, LegalZoom. Unfortunately, once the LegalZoom documents were created and signed, Mr. Ferrantino’s assets could not be funded into the Revocable Living Trust because the financial institutions that held Mr. Ferrantino’s money would not accept the LegalZoom documents as being valid. LegalZoom provided no assistance to Mr. Ferrantino’s family when they had questions and needed help in getting the trust funded. Sadly, the trust still had no funds when Mr. Ferrantino passed away a few months after completing the LegalZoom documents.
The result? A lawsuit was filed against LegalZoom, since the Ferrantino family is not alone is confronting the stressful, disheartening realization that their LegalZoom estate planning documents are flawed and unacceptable in a court of law. The lawsuit claims that “nowhere in the [company’s] manual [does LegalZoom] explain that using LegalZoom is not the same as using an attorney,” and highlighting the fact that “the customer service representatives are not lawyers and cannot by law provide legal advice,” according to Elderlawanswers.com.
I understand why people are attracted to a site like LegalZoom. It’s quick, cheap, and you get an almost-immediate product that you are led to believe is legall sound and valid. Sadly, many families wind up in virtually the same situation as the Ferrantino’s when using LegalZoom. The fact remains that a computer program, no matter how sophisticated, cannot address the vast array of the unique family and financial issues of each individual.
The lesson – avoid the serious pitfalls associated with LegalZoom and hire an experienced, competent estate planning attorney to help you prepare your last will and testament, revocable trust, durable power of attorney, and other important documents. An estate planning attorney will actually be able to sit down and talk to you and craft an estate plan that is specifically geared to your particular situation and financial circumstances. There’s no doubt that LegalZoom is popular, but popularity does not replace quality.