Daniel E. Clement is a divorce and family law attorney who has been practicing since 1986 and blogging at the New York Divorce Report since 2006. Daniel uses his in-depth experience to provide sensitive representation for his clients during an emotional and challenging time in their lives. Daniel writes and lectures on family law issues, and he is sought after as an expert in the field by print, television and radio journalists. He represents a wide range of clients frequently needing help with a divorce or a pre-nuptial agreement. Daniel focuses on educating his clients on family law so they're empowered to make decisions and understand what they're owed. Full Bio
Should I buy an online legal form?
Rather than retaining lawyers to represent them to prepare prenuptial agreements or other documents in their New York divorces, people are opting to purchase cheap online legal forms. This is a dangerous and troubling trend.
I was recently retained to review a prenuptial agreement for someone about to wed. From a cursory review of the agreement, I knew that no New York attorney drafted the agreement. It omitted essential terms and, instead, addressed legal theories not even applicable in New York, where my client lived. I was not surprised when my client confessed that he bought an online form and filled in the blanks before giving it to me to review.
Rather than wasting time and my client's money trying to make the online form comply with New York law, it was more efficient for me to draft a new agreement from scratch.
But what if my client merely purchased the agreement and signed it without having it reviewed? Surely he would not have had the benefit of the protection that he thought he was getting by signing the agreement. Worse yet, his legal rights would be affected in ways not contemplated.
I am all in favor of DIY ("do it yourself"), but there are limits. Preparing legal documents, the scope and legal consequence of which may not be known for years, is well beyond the scope of DIY.
The disclaimer page of Legal Zoom, one of the largest purveyors of legal forms, provides even more reasons to stay away from DIY legal forms:
LegalZoom is not a law firm, and the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney. LegalZoom’s legal document service is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney...
At no time do we review your answers for legal sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide legal advice or apply the law to the facts of your particular situation. LegalZoom and its services are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney...
...the legal information on this site is not legal advice and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date. Because the law changes rapidly, is different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and is also subject to varying interpretations by different courts and certain government and administrative bodies, LegalZoom cannot guarantee that all the information on the site is completely current...
LegalZoom is not responsible for any loss, injury, claim, liability, or damage related to your use of this site or any site linked to this site, whether from errors or omissions in the content of our site or any other linked sites, from the site being down or from any other use of the site. In short, your use of the site is at your own risk.
This disclaimer is well beyond "buyer beware." They are telling you that the information you are buying may not be "correct, complete or up-to-date." What is the point of an agreement that is not correct, complete or up-to-date? An agreement that is not correct or complete offers you no protection, and may be even riskier than not having an agreement.
Would you buy a car that was not correct, complete or up-to date? Would you want medical treatment that was not correct, complete or up-to date?
If you buy an online form, good luck and thank you in advance; my experience is that it will cost you more in legal fees later on when I have to fix mistakes from the incorrect and incomplete legal forms that you bought online!
This question was originally posted at clementlaw.com/divorce/should_i_buy_an_online_legal_form_buyer_beware. The writer retains all copyrights.