Is LegalZoom looking out for your best interest?


What type of guidance did LegalZoom provide the father so he could decide the type of estate planning he needed?

I ask this question based on a recent experience with a client whose father had used Legal Zoom to prepare a Last Will and Testament.  I do not know the answer.

The facts

The father had passed last year.  He left real property, titled only in his own name, in two states – Oklahoma and California.

When the children showed up at my office the primary question was “Do we need to file a probate?”  The answer was “yes” because there was no other way to change the tile to the real properyt than through a court order.

Double Probate

What the children didn’t expect that became clear to me fairly quickly is that there would need to be two probate proceedings:

One probate proceeding in California covering the California real property; and

An Oklahoma probate proceeding covering the Oklahoma real property.

The double probate requirement was understandably difficult for my clients to swallow.  At least twice the money and twice the time will be required (although one proceeding will ancillary to the other).

How could this result have been avoided?

The father could have placed both tracts of real property in a Revocable Living Trust.  By creating a trust and transferring title to each piece of property to the trust, the trust would be the owner of the property.  The father’s death would not have affected the property and then property could have been passed directly from the trust to the children – NO PROBATE required.

The questions

This scenario leaves me with some questions about Legal Zoom’s process:

1.  Did LegalZoom present the trust option to the father in the process of creating the Will?

2.  Was there enough information provided to the father so that he could understand and appreciate the problem with owning property in two states?

3.  Did the father have a live person at LegalZoom to discuss these options with?

Lack of Answers

These are critical questions for a person who is planning their estate.  I do not know whether LegalZoom’s process addresses these questions.

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Shawn J. Roberts, P.C. in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with my wife Amy and my two children, Sam (19) and David (11). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."