A staggering number of online services advertise that they can help you prepare your own legal documents without paying for an attorney – but how can you know which are legitimate?
Not to mention, if you’re trying to compare major companies like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Nolo, it can be difficult to identify which factors should even be compared! That’s why we’ve laid it all out for you and also provided valuable information regarding the dangers of using these document preparation services – and why you should be careful doing so.
Comparing the Software – LegalZoom vs Nolo vs Rocket Lawyer
Nolo’s downloadable software offers more options in creating a will than Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom’s. However, Nolo software also allows for a lot of potential confusion for users with little to no knowledge about estate matters.
Overall, none of these three services are flexible about important issues. For example, the Nolo’s WillMaker program only allows users to create a child’s trust to age 35. Additionally, after completing the Rocket Lawyer interview, users can edit the will as needed. This feature may seem useful, but it presents the opportunity for anyone to add clauses and make changes to the document that could potentially contradict other parts of the will and cause problems down the road.
Finally, and most importantly, none of the services offered help with the signing of the will, a critical and key part that, when not done correctly, could make any will invalid.
Unexpected Legal Consequences of LegalZoom vs. Rocket Lawyer vs. Nolo
LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Nolo all offer worksheets to create various types of legal documents, including those to create basic wills.
However, depending on your specific needs, there’s a decent chance that wills created with the online interfaces offered by LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Nolo will not be specific enough for you – and we have experienced this firsthand in one of our customers.
In 2016, A People’s Choice was contacted to probate an estate, and the representative indicated the decedent had a will that had been prepared by the decedent using LegalZoom. However, the will had not been properly generated; the customer was clearly confused about how to use LegalZoom, how to create the will, and how the will was to be executed. As a result, the will was deficient in many of California’s legal requirements and was not properly executed.
The decedent’s will specified how they wanted their estate distributed; however, due to the invalidity of the will, the estate had to be distributed according to the rules of intestate succession in California. This law defines the beneficiaries of an estate without a will or when the will is declared invalid.
Unfortunately, in this particular case, since the will was faulty, the decedent’s estate was distributed to people who were not the intended recipients.
Not only did the decedent save no money by using LegalZoom’s online service instead of those from A People’s Choice; the decedent’s choice to create his will using this online service also resulted in very different and unintended legal consequences, changing the manner in which the estate will be distributed.
LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer all offer legal document preparation for routine matters such as lease agreements, promissory notes, and some divorce paperwork; however, the services are not complete.
For users filing for divorce, for example, Rocket Lawyer offers help with divorce agreements but fails to provide the documents needed to actually file for divorce. Likewise, LegalZoom offers help preparing state-specific documents to file for divorce, but their services do not include any local forms required by many California courts. Additionally, Nolo Press offers a book to help guide you through a California divorce, but does not provide any document preparation services.
Furthermore, none of these services offer any other type of help such as filing paperwork. When you use LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer or Nolo, you will also be required to file all paperwork, sort through instructions, and maneuver your case through the court process. This process often results in several trips to the local self-help center for further direction.
Finally, some consumers find it helpful to consult a lawyer for preliminary advice before seeking the services of a non-attorney document preparation service. While LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer both offer consultation services by lawyers, these services typically offer little cost savings compared to meeting a local lawyer through a lawyer referral service.
Most attorneys offer a free consultation, so why pay for LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer when your local lawyer referral service can direct you to a local attorney for free?
Bottom line: Nolo vs. LegalZoom vs. Rocket Lawyer all offer online help to prepare basic legal forms; however, their services might be cheaper than a lawyer, but are very restrictive – and other options are available.
A People’s Choice Offers the Best of Both Worlds
A People’s Choice offers the same type of legal document services as Nolo, LegalZoom, and Rocket Lawyer, but the scope of our services is much more comprehensive, flexible, and complete. When you hire A People’s Choice, we will not only prepare your legal documents, but will help you ensure the documents are properly signed and processed every step of the way.
How do we compare in our will preparation services? A People’s Choice reviews each and every aspect of the terms of your will one-on-one during preparation. We address a multitude of options and variations so that your will is created with the exact terms and conditions you want for your estate. Additionally, you will receive a draft for review and have the opportunity to make any necessary changes or adjustments before it is signed. California requires wills to be signed in front of two witnesses, which we provide when the document is finalized. All in all, A People’s Choice will ensure that your will is properly executed according to California law.
Furthermore, A People’s Choice offers an online interview interface for many of our services as well as telephone interviews for others. In addition, we offer courtesy filing of all documents we prepare with the appropriate court or other agency, set any required hearings, record documents, and monitor cases to completion. The best part? Our prices are comparable to those of the other websites, despite all of these added services.