Legalzoom.com review: A diverse menu of estate-planning options

LegalZoom offers a wide selection of estate-planning options, and you can save on multiple services by bundling them into one package.

Published March 5, 2019

Making a plan for what happens after you die involves more than just sharing your wishes with loved ones. You need an estate plan that dictates what will happen to your assets, who will care for your minor children, and who will handle your affairs.

If you don’t make plans ahead of time, decisions regarding your estate could be tangled up in court or family disputes, and eventually settled by the state.

Unfortunately, hiring a lawyer to put together your estate plan can be cost-prohibitive. Enter online estate planning services like LegalZoom, which lets you create your legal documents for a lower price.

Here’s how LegalZoom can help you prepare your estate, and how you can determine if it’s the right service for you.

What LegalZoom provides

LegalZoom is a platform for creating personalized legal documents, customized to your state, in a matter of 15 minutes. Estate-planning documents can help you define what happens to your property and who should take care of your minor children, and even make decisions regarding your healthcare ahead of time.

LegalZoom provides comprehensive bundles with multiple documents or lets you pick and choose the documents that you need. Each bundle comes with one year of attorney advice and other documents like an advance directive and financial power of attorney.

Estate-planning documents

Choosing an estate plan depends on whether you want a last will and testament or a living trust:

Living trust:

A living trust is a legal document that states who should manage and distribute your assets as well as the beneficiaries who will receive those assets. You can choose for those assets to be distributed after you die, or even while you’re alive.

The ownership of your assets is transferred into the trust and controlled by the trustee according to the rules you set. Unlike wills, the assets in a living trust don’t have to go through probate, a court process which can be lengthy and expensive.

Your living trust will accomplish the following:

  • Create the trust: ownership of your assets is transferred into the trust.
  • Establish a trustee: appoint a person to administer and distribute the assets in your trust.
  • Establish beneficiaries: define the beneficiaries who will receive the assets in your trust, and allow for specific gifts, distributions or charitable donations.
  • Create a pour-over will: transfer all the property not named in your trust into the trust after your death. (Read more about pour-over wills.)

Living trust bundles cost $299 for a single trust or $349 for two. If you don’t wish to choose the bundle, you can choose only the living trust:

  • Basic living trust includes your living trust and free revisions for 30 days for $249.
  • Comprehensive living trust includes the basic living trust and adds 30 days of attorney advice for $269.

Last will and testament:

A last will and testament defines what happens after you die: who will receive your assets, who becomes a guardian for your minor children, and who will be nominated as executor of your estate (the person who will handle your affairs). Wills guide probate, which means they can be contested in court.

Your last will and testament will accomplish the following:

  • Name beneficiaries: establish who will receive your assets.
  • Nominate executors: establish who will manage and administer your estate.
  • Nominate guardians: establish who will care for your minor children.

Last will and testament bundles cost $149 for a single will or $249 for two. If you don’t wish to choose the bundle, you can choose only the last will and testament: Basic last will includes your will and free revisions for 30 days for $69. Comprehensive last will includes the basic will and adds 30 days of attorney advice for $79.

Individual documents and other services:

LegalZoom’s estate-planning products can be purchased either individually as part of a bundle with other documents.

  • Financial power of attorney: authorizes a person manage your finances if you are unable to do so.
  • Living will: also known as an advance directive, this document authorizes certain health care decisions ahead of time, such as whether to be intubated or resuscitated.
  • Attorney advice: one year of 30-minute phone consultations with LegalZoom’s network of licensed attorneys. They can provide legal advice and help you create and revise your estate plan.

You can also purchase the following documents separately, but they are not included as part of the will or trust bundles:

  • Medical power of attorney: authorizes a person to make health care decisions on your behalf while you’re incapacitated.
  • Pet protection agreement: appoints a guardian for your current and future pets, and can set aside money for pet care expenses.

How to create and validate legal documents with LegalZoom

Creating your documents

When you’re ready to create your legal documents, simply choose the documents you want to create at https://www.legalzoom.com. You’ll need to answer some basic questions, including the state you live in and the products you need.

Depending on what you choose, you may need to pay ahead of time or pay when the document is ready to be prepared.

To complete your documents, you will create a LegalZoom account using an email address and password. You’ll also need to provide basic information via a questionnaire that changes depending on which document(s) you’re creating. Required information could include:

  • Basic information about you and your family.
  • Basic information about your assets.
  • The executor of your estate, who will administer your estate and carry out your will.
  • The guardians you wish to care for your minor children or pets.
  • The beneficiaries of your estate, who will receive your assets, as well as any specific bequests or charitable donations you wish to make.
  • Decisions regarding your medical care and the person you wish to make medical decisions on your behalf.
  • Decisions regarding your finances and the person you wish to make financial decisions on your behalf.

According to LegalZoom, the process typically takes around 15 minutes or less. Your questions will be recorded and used to build documents that are specific to your state.

Once your questionnaire is complete, your legal documents are typically completed and available for download and printing within two to four business days. Same-day processing is also available for a fee.

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Signing and validating your documents

Both wills and trusts must be signed in front of two witnesses before they become legal. Only Louisiana requires you to have your will notarized, but in some states notarized wills can move through probate faster. Make sure you understand what you must do to make your documents fully legal after you download and print them from LegalZoom.

Documents should be kept in a safe place — such as a home safe or lockbox — that is accessible to heirs, beneficiaries, and the executor of your estate. In some states, your will can be filed with the probate division of the local courts, although revoking or making changes — adding a codicil might be more difficult in that case.

You may need to make updates due to life events such as having children, getting married or buying a home. Some LegalZoom products come with a limited time of free revisions, while others may require you to create an entirely new document.

If you are unsatisfied with your documents, you can request a refund or exchange within 60 days.

The pros and cons of LegalZoom

The biggest advantages of LegalZoom are cost, speed, and convenience.

  • Cost: LegalZoom is cheaper than hiring a personal lawyer.
  • Speed: LegalZoom documents are available within two to four business days after completing your questionnaire.
  • Convenience: your legal documents can be completed online from a computer.

When compared with other online legal document services, LegalZoom is priced competitively. With certain bundles and subscriptions, LegalZoom also provides phone consultations from attorneys and legal advice as you create your documents.

There are some downsides to LegalZoom when compared to hiring a lawyer yourself or choosing a competing service.

  • LegalZoom’s large menu of documents and wide variety of products may be confusing for anyone unfamiliar with the basics of estate planning. Bundled products may not contain all the documents you want or need.
  • LegalZoom’s 30-minute attorney consultations might not match the level of service or detail you would receive from hiring your own personal lawyer. You only get one 30-minute phone consultation per new legal matter.

Bottom line

If you want an inexpensive, fast option for creating an estate plan or other legal documents, LegalZoom might be the right fit. You can easily create documents that are specific to your state in a matter of 15 minutes. If you want basic attorney advice, LegalZoom’s consultation service, which connects you with a network of attorneys, can also be helpful.

However, complex legal matters or complicated estates that require more than 30 minutes of advice will probably benefit from a dedicated lawyer. If you need a higher level of guidance provided through personal legal advice, hiring a lawyer is the best option.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by a certified financial planner or advisor. It’s intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, financial, or investment advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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