Comparing LegalZoom with USLegalWills.com – Executive Summary
Looking for an alternative to LegalZoom for writing your Will?
You may not have time to read this complete article, so here are the key points;
- Both LegalZoom and USLegalWills.com have been offering Will writing services for nearly 20 years now. The longevity of both companies is an important consideration when choosing an online Will service provider.
- In terms of the core Will writing service, USLegalWills.com has more options and more flexibility. It includes features like Pet Trusts, Lifetime interests trusts, a specific section on charitable bequests and Mirror Wills. There are no features in the LegalZoom service not available at USLegalWills.com
- USLegalWills.com is AT LEAST half the price of LegalZoom. When you take into consideration additional features like updates over time, USLegalWills.com is a fraction of the cost of LegalZoom (unlimited updates to all of your documents for 10 years is $34.95 at USLegalWills.com, at LegalZoom updates cost you $29.95 every single time you want to make a change!). There are also no ongoing subscriptions at USLegalWills.com and never any need to cancel a recurring payment.
- USLegalWills.com specializes in estate planning documents which means that customer service know estate planning, and the additional tools on the website are all geared towards estate planning. LegalZoom also specialize in business incorporation, trademarks and intellectual property service.
- USLegalWills.com have created a suite of services to support your Will. These include naming a keyholder to access your documents after you are gone, documenting your assets for your Executor through the MyLifeLocker service, uploading files to a digital vault for your loved ones, even writing messages to be distributed after you have passed away. LegalZoom only offer the downloaded documents and nothing else.
- Why is LegalZoom bigger? because they took a different corporate strategy in raising $800M of venture capital investment over the last few years. This gives the company a massive advertising budget. USLegalWills.com is privately held. This means that it is not driven by profitability and returns to investors, so we offer a fair service for a fair price. But this also means that we do not have $800M to spend on marketing!
Why use an online Will service
Everybody should have a Last Will and Testament in place, but according to a recent survey commissioned by USLegalWills.com, only 28 percent of American adults have an up-to-date Will in place.
There are a number of reasons for this, but two key issues tend to come up time and time again. Cost and inconvenience.
Traditionally it has been very expensive to write a Will. Estate planning attorneys charge anything from $700 to $2000 for a simple Last Will and Testament. If you want a full estate planning package including a Financial Power of Attorney and a Living Will (Healthcare Power of Attorney and Advance Directive), the costs can spiral.
If you are a couple, then you each need both of these documents, so it is not uncommon for a husband and wife to pay several thousands of dollars for a pair of estate planning documents.
An equally significant issue though is the matter of convenience. Traditionally, if you wanted to write your Will you would need to make an appointment with an estate planning attorney, which would usually be during business hours – when you were working. If you were in a relationship, you would need to co-ordinate this appointment with your partner, so that both of you could meet with the attorney together.
If you ever needed to update your documents, you would have to go through the whole process again, which is why our survey found that although 65 percent of Americans over the age of 65 had a Will in place, a quarter of them were out of date. This doesn’t even include Wills that are no longer perfect, for example, the alternate Executor is ill and would not be able to take on the responsibility if they were ever required to do so. The document should be updated, but it would be too difficult to make another appointment with an attorney, so most people wouldn’t bother.
This is why, back around the year 2000, both LegalZoom (December 1999) and USLegalWills.com (September 2001) identified a need to use technology and online services, to deliver a more convenient and affordable approach to Will writing. For both companies, the popularity of this approach to making a Will has grown year over year for nearly two decades.
LegalZoom and USLegalWills Service portfolio
This is where LegalZoom outpaces USLegalWills.com. LegalZoom is a one-stop shop for many business and personal legal documents. You can incorporate your business, protect your intellectual property, prepare a seller’s permit, register trademarks, and of course, prepare your estate planning documents.
USLegalWills.com is an estate planning specialist. We only deal with estate planning documents, and specifically, a Last Will and Testament, Financial Power of Attorney and Living Will (including a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Advance Directive).
But as you will see later in this article, this gives USLegalWills.com a significant advantage. Our support team are specialists in answering questions about our estate planning services. Although neither company offers legal advice, our support team can certainly help you with some nuanced details when stepping through our Will writing service. Our customer support team do not have to also understand the difference between copyrights, patents and trademarks.
In addition, we have created a full service portfolio related specifically to estate planning. There is no natural synergy between forming an LLC and writing a financial Power of Attorney, but our services allow you to write your Will, and then document your assets for your Executor through our proprietary LifeLocker tool. More about that later.
LegalZoom and USLegalWills Pricing
Creating a Last Will and Testament
The pricing at LegalZoom is not immediately obvious, and there are a number of different bundles available. But if you are preparing a Last Will and Testament with no other services;At LegalZoom you will pay a minimum of $69 for a Will
With USLegalWills.com our Last Will and Testament service costs $39.95
At LegalZoom you have 30 days of unlimited updates.
With USLegalWills.com you have one year of unlimited updates.
Both LegalZoom and USLegalWills.com charge $9.95 for the printing of the document. Both service providers give you instant access to a downloadable PDF version of your Will.
Other estate planning documents
The other two popular estate planning documents are a Financial Power of Attorney and Living Will (Healthcare representative and Advance Directive).At LegalZoom you will pay a minimum of $35 for a Financial Power of Attorney
At USLegalWills.com our Financial Power of Attorney service costs $24.95
A Living Will consists of two separate documents; an Advance Directive and the Healthcare Representative AgreementAt LegalZoom you will pay a minimum of $39 for a Living Will
At USLegalWills.com our Living Will service costs $14.95
Again for each of these documents; LegalZoom allows 30 days of unlimited updates, compared to the one year of unlimited updates at USLegalWills.com.
So, for the complete estate plan with all three documents; the Last Will and Testament, Living Will and Financial Power of Attorney.A complete estate plan at LegalZoom costs $149
A complete estate plan at USLegalWills.com with one year of updates costs $74.85
A Mirror Will
If you are in a relationship you may need a Mirror Will.
It is very common for a couple to name each other as their main beneficiary, and then have a plan in case they were both involved in a common accident.
Joe and Jane are married with two children. If anything happens to Joe, he wants everything to go to Jane. If anything were to happen to Jane, she would want everything to go to John. But If they were both involved in a common accident, then they would want everything to be shared between their children.
These are two classic Mirror Wills.
At LegalZoom there is no tool to create a Mirror Will, and no price advantage in creating two Wills.
At USLegalWills.com we have a specific tool for shortcutting the process of preparing that second Will. You can actually move data from one account to the other, so if you have listed your ten grandchildren in your Will, with their dates of birth, you don’t need to re-type all of this information into the second document. The information is simply exported and imported, making the process of creating the second Will a ten minute exercise.
USLegalWills.com discounts the second set of documents by 40 percent, so the Will costs $20.97. This discount actually applies to all services purchased on the second account.
The second person pays $44.91 for their complete estate plan, compared to $149 at LegalZoom.
Revisions beyond the “grace period”
USLegalWills.com understands the need to update your documents over time. As a company that is committed to removing the barriers of traditional estate planning, we regard the ease and affordability of updates as a critical component of our service. In fact, our customers login to their account an average of 3.4 times a year.
Supposing a charity becomes a significant part of your life and you want to recognize their work through a bequest in your Will. Or your chosen guardian moves out of the country. Or you lend a large amount of money to one child, and want to account for that in your Will to make it fair to your other children. Maybe your Executor tells you that they no longer feel up to the job.
There are countless reasons why you may wish to update your Will beyond the obvious change in marital status, or the birth of a child.
At USLegalWills.com we make this easy. Beyond your first year (which is included in the base price), you can choose to maintain a subscription. We do not automatically charge anything, there is nothing to cancel, but if you wish to maintain an account, you can do this.
All the time you have an active account with us, you can make unlimited updates to all of your documents. Account subscriptions are charged at
1 year – $11.95
5 years – $24.95
10 years – $34.95
25 years – $74.95
Lifetime – $124.95
This one price applies to all documents on your account, so if you have the Last Will and Testament, Living Will and Power of Attorney, there is only one amount to pay for unlimited updates to all documents.
LegalZoom charges you $29.95 every time you wish to make an change or update to any of your documents.
Pet Care Agreements
LegalZoom charge extra for certain things included within the USLegalWills.com Will service. For example, setting up a trust for a pet.
At LegalZoom the cost for a “Pet Protection Agreement” is $39.
At USLegalWills.com this is included at no additional charge within our Last Will and Testament service.
When you checkout at LegalZoom, by default your selection is swapped from the basic package to the comprehensive package, even though you started working through the basic package. You have to manually set yourself back to the basic package.
Why is this important?
Because the comprehensive package includes a free trial for a service, that will automatically turn into a subscription. This subscription will cost you $14.99 a month until you notice it on your credit card statement, and you will then have to call their customer service line to cancel (customer reviews suggest that they leave you on hold for up to an hour to do this).
It’s a common strategy used by many of our competitors and it makes them a ton of money. But it also leads to scathing customer service reviews.
It’s just not our style. We will never, ever charge you anything automatically. There are no ongoing subscriptions, and nothing to cancel.
Summary of Pricing between USLegalWills.com and LegalZoom
The Online Will service
I know what you’re thinking.
“Pricing is all very well, but the service at USLegalWills.com just can’t be as good if they charge a fraction of the price of LegalZoom.”
Let us look at the services and what can and cannot be done.
LegalZoom claim that 70 percent of people step through their five steps in less than 15 minutes. This is actually faster than we would expect somebody to complete a Will at USLegalWills.com. It usually takes about 30 minutes to step through our service, but there are ten sections, not five.
When you step through the service at LegalZoom you are guided through their plans for your estate that are based on the high runner scenarios.
Let us take an example of a realistic plan;
I want to leave $10,000 to a local hospital, and then the remainder to my spouse. If my spouse predeceases me, then I would like each grandchild to receive $10,000 and the remainder would be divided between my children.
If any of my children were to predecease me, then their share would pass to their own children.
This is not a particularly unusual distribution plan. But it is not supported at LegalZoom.
LegalZoom is not a smooth process at all. After you have typed in the names of all of your children, you have to re-enter their names when you get to the distribution of your estate. They are not pre-filled for you. When entering a alternate distribution plan in case a child pre-deceases me, you have to manually type that you want everything to go to their own children. It is a very clumsy process and very error prone. Compare the LegalZoom options
With the USLegalWills.com options
You may have noticed that there is a possible error in the LegalZoom selection where this person has re-typed John Doe instead of Jane Doe.
If you wish to set up a trust for a minor beneficiary, you will find yourself typing in the name of your children once again. At USLegalWills.com we pick up the name of your child and pre-populate it into every section that applies to them. This protects against mis-typing errors.
In the trusts section, LegalZoom decides on the fractions that will be left at each age: one third, one half of the remainder.
At USLegalWills.com we allow you to decide
There are other odd restrictions. For example, you can only leave a cash sum as a charitable bequest. USLegalWills.com allows you to leave cash, a percentage of your estate or even an item, like your automobile.
Although it is not a high runner, but LegalZoom does not allow you to name different guardians for different children. You can only name one guardian for all of your children. USLegalWills.com does not have this restriction.
There are a number of other restrictions in the LegalZoom service, but we would encourage you to try both services and see which one works for you.
Creating a Mirror Will
Two thirds of the people using USLegalWills.com are married or living in a common law relationship. Of these, a good proportion are looking to create a Mirror Will; where each partner names each other as the main beneficiary, with a plan in case the couple are involved in a common accident.
At USLegalWills.com we make this easier by providing a data transfer tool.
Each individual is still free to adapt the Will. You can create specific bequests that are not in your partner’s Will, or even change the name of your appointments. The Mirror Will is not a fixed document, but our tool streamlines the process of preparing the second Will. We also offer a 40 percent discount for this second document.
LegalZoom offer nothing to streamline the process of creating a second Will for a partner. Nor do they offer a price break on the second document.
Other estate planning tools
USLegalWills.com are specialists in estate planning. We understand the requirements and challenges associated with creating estate planning documents, and then making sure that the information gets to the people who need it at the right time (and not before).
To help with this, USLegalWills.com has created the most complete portfolio of estate planning tools available anywhere.
You appoint an Executor in your Will, and your Will typically says something like “distribute my entire estate equally between my children” or “my entire estate to go to my husband John Doe”.
Your Executor then has to gather up your entire estate for distribution to your beneficiaries.
But how does your Executor know the contents of your estate? every bank account, every investment, every possession, every online account, every collection of cash?
How will your Executor know that they have gathered up everything that belongs to you?
You certainly wouldn’t want to list your assets in your Will because you would then have to update your Will every time an asset changed. Your Will also becomes a public document after you have passed away; some of this information may be a little personal for public consumption.
We developed MyLifeLocker precisely for this reason. You can document every asset, personal contact, subscription, your utilities, your possessions. Every piece of information that your Executor will need to administer your estate.
This document can then either be printed and stored with your Will, or you can maintain it as an online document. You can then name your Executor as a “Keyholder”. A proprietary mechanism where trusted individuals are given access to services within your account after you have passed away, and not before.
It is estimated that over $58 Billion is held by Federal and State Governments. It would be a pity to add to this stockpile.
Similar to MyLifeLocker, we strive to not only create estate planning documents, but also to help your loved ones sort out your estate. We added to our service portfolio MyVault which allows you to upload any file to your account. This can then be accessed by any Keyholder after you have passed away.
You can upload anything to your vault. Sentimental pictures, an unfinished novel, an audio recording, a spreadsheet of passwords. They are simply files uploaded from your computer that can then be accessed by the people who need them.
We recommend that you do not include your funeral wishes in your Will itself. Any document that describes your funeral wishes is actually an expression of your preferences, it is not a legally binding document. It does not have the same signing requirements as a Last Will and Testament, and although you would expect your family to honor your funeral wishes, there is no legal requirement to do so. In short, it is a different kind of document to a Last Will and Testament.
Your Will also has to go through formal court processes before it is accepted as your official Last Will and Testament. By the time this is done, your funeral is likely to be taken care of.
We offer a separate, entirely free service MyFuneral service for documenting your funeral wishes that goes through every element of your funeral. It goes way beyond a simple question of buried or cremated.
At USLegalWills.com we listen to our customers. We were told that people were looking for a twenty first century version of the sealed envelope “only open this after I am gone”.
The message can say anything, but most commonly it is used for very practical reasons
“I have a bag of money under the floorboards”
“my Will is in my bedside table”
“please treat my children as if they were your own”
“suzy, I am sorry that we didn’t speak for ten years, it is the biggest regret of my life”
Our MyMessages service gets the messages out to loved ones after you have passed away and not before. Unlocked by your Keyholders. Again, this is an entirely free service.
The Expat Will service
By offering Will writing services for the United States, Canada and the UK, we are unique in being able to offer what we call an “Expat Will” service. If you have assets in both the US and in Canada for example, you can create a separate Will for your Canadian assets and US assets. The two Wills would then work together to cover your entire estate.
USLegalWills.com is the only company that offers this type of service.
All of these services are of course optional, but they are there if you need them.
LegalZoom and USLegalWills Customer service
We haven’t had many dealings with the LegalZoom customer service team, so we cannot really comment. Although when we look at the independent reviews of LegalZoom, customer service often comes up as a shortcoming. It is difficult to scale a customer service team who can help with trademark applications, incorporation, pet trusts and living Wills.
Our customer service team are entirely based in North America, and every single member of the team has worked with us for over a decade.
Both companies offer phone and email support, based in North America. LegalZoom also offer text chat. USLegalWills.com have text chat available periodically and it is something that we are still experimenting with.
Our average response time for an email is just under one hour, but this includes emails that come in overnight.
Social proof and recommendations
LegalZoom have many, many reviews, but it’s fair to say that reviews are mixed. At SiteJabber, an independent website review service, people ask the question “why are the reviews so bad” and people seem keen to answer.
The SiteJabber review rating is 3.3 stars out of five.
At the Better Business Bureau, LegalZoom have a review rating of 1.2 stars out of five
This is in contrast to the Google Reviews for USLegalWills.com
A five star rating on Google Reviews is extremely hard to come by, and something that we are very proud of.
If USLegalWills.com is better, then why is LegalZoom bigger?
There is actually a very simple answer to this. Both companies started around the same time, within a year of each other. But LegalZoom took a different business approach. As a company they have raised around $800M in financing. This is a lot of money and it gives the company significant resources for marketing and promotion. You will see a lot of paid ads for LegalZoom, they have a huge social media and marketing team, run TV and radio ads, and sponsor countless podcasts. They are a brand, spending an $800M investment budget. The plan is that at some point their investors will want to see a return on this investment, so as a company, they are continually looking for ways to maximize revenues and minimize costs.
USLegalWills.com is privately held. It has had no outside investment whatsoever. We strive to offer the most comprehensive and affordable estate planning and Will writing service available on the internet. We are not driven to maximize revenues, so we would not for example, sell customer data (we don’t know that LegalZoom do this either, but many of our competitors do).
USLegalWills.com does not have the brand recognition of LegalZoom, but we believe we have a better product and more affordable pricing.
There is only one conclusion from this review. Please try us both. Create your documents using USLegalWills.com, and then try the services at LegalZoom. If you feel that their documents are in any way superior, if their service was more intuitive, if their customer service was better, if you felt you received better value for money from LegalZoom, then we will refund your payment in full.
You can start the process of writing a Will here, by clicking on “Try it Right Now”.
He has over 19 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets, and has contributed to articles in The New York Times, NY Metro Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and other leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.