LegalZoom is a DIY legal website that offers legal forms and paperwork for various business and personal needs. But does it come close to replacing the advice you’d get from a lawyer?
The biggest reason people try to do their own legal work is because of the high price of legal help. These staggering costs can really add up if it’s a complicated matter, and can be prohibitively expensive for start-up companies and s family matters that don’t have a lot of complicated stipulations involved.
LegalZoom claims that they are an affordable and personalized service that will take into account your unique needs and situation. They say they’re able to assist with a myriad of legal issues including starting, naming, and running your business as well as business tax issues. They also help with many personal matters including wills and trusts, bankruptcies, and divorces. They can also help with trademark and Intellectual Property concerns.
They have multiple ad campaigns going on right now, both on TV and using online advertising, so you may have noticed their ads while you were doing a search for various legal services. Not much hype is required to sell a service like this because most people don’t have the funds to hire a lawyer for basic legal matters, and are eager to find a way to get the same sort of results at a fraction of the price.
The cost of LegalZoom varies depending on what you’re looking to get done. Since they have such a wide range of services you could end up paying as little as $100 for an LLC registration for your business, or as little as $70 for a basic will. They also have a lot of additions and upgrades that you can add on, so it’s really a matter of determining what you need and what you don’t need so that you’re charged the right price for what you’re trying to do.
Keep in mind that the prices you see at the site do not include the charges you’ll run into by the state you’re doing business in, or that you live in. These fees are in addition to these court filing fees or state filing fees.
These types of services are supposed to help you make heads or tails of the legal process by walking you through step by step. They are supposed to be a middle ground between going with a lawyer and doing it entirely on your own without any guidance whatsoever. Rather than having to figure out all the steps on your own, this is supposed to shorten the learning curve so that you can finish more quickly and accurately than you would if you just started filling things out from scratch.
The Huffington Post says they provide top quality legal documents, but Consumer Reports says that they don’t come close to giving you the type of information and help you’d get from a lawyer. Consumer Reports might be being a little unrealistic here as most people are aware that they aren’t getting lawyer-caliber assistance here for a paltry price. It’s not as if LegalZoom is saying that their divorce forms are going to help you win a case against your ex if they’ve hired a lawyer.
The real question is whether or not this service helps you out better than doing it completely on your own, and for that we’d have to say yes in most instances. They also offer a service that includes actual legal consultation for a monthly fee, so they are doing a good job of bridging the gap between getting a lawyer and doing it yourself.
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Overall, LegalZoom may be able to help you out in a simple business situation, or at least get the process started when funds are tight and you’re just starting out. For wills and trusts you’d almost always want to get an attorney because they will be able to help you protect your assets best and make sure that things get passed on without being heavily taxed and without a lot of fighting over who gets what.
If you’re prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the mental legwork on your legal documents, you’ll probably be happy with the quality of the forms they provide. But if you’re looking for something that will act as a substitute for a lawyer, this isn’t it. But the good news is that there really isn’t any substitute for a lawyer, so going with a competing service is going to provide pretty much the same result.