Cost of will- on line forms?

sportsmom12March 18, 2007

I had a will done 27 years ago- figured time to redo. Anybody done one on line- or should I go to a lawyer. Not sure how comlicated ours is. We do have a house and some life insurance policies and some cars. We have four children( 3 our my husbands from a prior marriage and one together) I have always made 2-3 times more than my husband. We were thinking of it like this:

1. If one of us goes first- the other gets everything

2. If we both go- we were thinking our child together would get 50% and the other 50% would be split- figured that was fair as my only child would get 50% of our stuff

3. If I go first- I want it set up so it is like above - 50% to our only child

So can I write up a will myself like that- or should I go to a lawyer. How much is a typical will


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In many jurisdictions a marriage voids any former wills.

Around here, they advertise mail-order will kits on the radio for something like $39.95.

One might use something like that, or one in a book from a publisher like Self-Counsel Press, available in many bookstores, as a guide regarding the many issues that a will relates to. I like the latter, for it would give one a much fuller explanation of the issues involved.

Go to a major library and check out resources there, especially ones that are current and related to your jurisdiction.

Talk to some trusted friends and ask what procedure they followed, if you think adviseable.

Plus some friends, etc. who went through the liquidation of an estate ... but not one that was recent, please, unless you are sure that there were no complications, and minimal residual bereavement issues on the part of the loved ones. Especially good if you can find someone who has been executor of an estate: they have a wealth of knowledge - and much good advice.

Do you know some people who have some knowledge in that field? Maybe pick their brains.

Do you have a connection with a religious or educational agency? Community or seniors' group? Someone there might have some general ideas to offer. It might make a useful topic for discussion in a seniors', community or church group. I just suggested to the minister of my church this morning that it might be useful to have an evening of discussion about money management, tax implications, etc. and she was interested - also may include our church's local giving co-ordinator (that attends our church).

If you'd followed up on my Chrismas gift offered in this and related sites in recent years, you'd have a data base to whom you might choose to send a message covering various aspects of your current dilemma. See it a few pages down on "Money Saving Tips" - or I can send it, if you ask.

I think it wise, however, when you have some definite ideas of the issues, and have made specific decisions about what things you want done, to run the situation past a lawyer, possibly having them draw the will.

If many of the issues have been considered and decided, so it's largely a matter of drawing the will correctly, the fees usually aren't large ... likely a few hundred dollars. If the lawyer has to spend a lot of time explaining, discussing various options, etc. with clients discussing in that office, the bill can get high.

You have made no reference to how long you've been married, the ages of your children, how many assets either of you brought into the marriage, etc.

However, it seems to be a bit unfair that, should you both depart this life together (rather improbable), your together one kid gets half of the assets ... and his 3 kids brought into your marriage from earlier get to split the other half.

Should you depart first, and, as you say, all of the assets go to him, then when he dies, how will he split the stuff between the four (well, four as of this writing, anyway).

Does he have a concern that, should he die first, on your demise, your kid may get most of the assets, while his imported ones end up with not much?

Has it been decided as to who gets what of which assets (house, car 1, car 2, retirement savings, other assets, etc.

Some assets, e.g. life insurance, tax-deferred retirement fund, etc. can have a beneficiary designated, so that fund may not be included in the will, thus attract probate fees.

For example, in this area, if a couple had a home worth $200,000. and a tax-deferred retirement fund of $200,000. and left one kid the home and the other the retirement asset, there'd be a major problem.

The owner-occupied home passes to the estate free of tax on whatever capital gain may have accrued.

The tax-deferred retirement fund was not taxed as income when earned, so, unless bequeathed to a spouse, becomes income of the deceased, in addition to whatever other income was received in the year of death ... often resulting in tax load of upwards of 50%.

So the kid getting the house gets about $200,000. value ... while the kid getting the retirement fund gets about $100,000., after the estate pays the deceased's taxes relative to the year of death.

There are many things to be considered.

Also, a related issue ... in case of disability, who gets to make the decisions about medical issues related to the disabled person? What level of extraordinary care to prolong life? Who gets to manage the financial issues related to the disabled person?

Do both of you know enough about the whole range of the family's affairs that, should one become disabled/die tomorrow ... the survivor could carry on the various situations of need with minimal disruption (apart from the trauma associated with the illness/death)? That's pretty important, as well.

Sorry to give you such a load.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 12:19AM
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I'm a great believer in using a lawyer for wills. That being said, a download would no doubt be perfectly legal assuming all of your particular state's requirements were met in regard to the number of witnesses, etc. And even things that may seem a bit silly have to be followed - pages in exact order and stapled (removing the staple will invalidate); once signed and witnessed any change of mind, crossing out, updating or making additional notations will generally invalidate.

The costs involved for using a lawyer depends on the amount of time and legal skill required for your situation. Also depends on the lawyer one chooses and where you are - a high powered lawyer in a NYC firm will get a much bigger fee than one here in No. Minnesota. Also under the fee consideration would be additional documents you might want to have - conferring Powers of Attorney for financial and health reasons, a Living Will for your end of life wishes, guardianship of minor children, if that's the case.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 1:59AM
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Practices in estate planning have evolved quite a bit in the last 27 years to the point that now many folks are setting up trusts and not using just traditional wills. Advantage - you avoid probate and taxes. As a result, I'd meet with a lawyer and get yourself up to date. Then make your decision about which route to go.

We're doing our estate planning now and are going to use trusts. I also had an aunt pass on last week and she had set up a trust. Already it's making dealing with things much easier for my cousin, her surviving son.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 6:19AM
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I agree that the trust is an excellent vehicle - will have one myself very shortly. The OP's original question was regarding downloading on line will forms and possibly taking that route as opposed to going through the time and expense of using a lawyer.

Trusts are not for everyone; many people understand a simple will whereas the concept of putting assets in trust is alien to them. Establishing a trust depends on your assets and how eager you might be to avoid probate or any of the other messes left for survivors to sort out - and anyone who has had to deal with the death of someone who didn't have their affairs in order knows exactly what these problems can be and the length of time it can take to resolve them.

As opposed to the do it yourself will, my recommendation was, and still is, that the OP consult a lawyer skilled in Elder Law and Estate Planning - can always inquire about fees up front. Perhaps I'm wrong on this, but I would think that any lawyer involved with drawing up wills, etc. would at the very least offer information regarding trusts as an option to their clients.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 1:23PM
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I recently purchased and used Quicken's Willmaker Plus software and book. It was only $33 and money well spent. It is state specific to the 49 states in which you can write your own legal will. Very easy, very thorough, and it would allow you to easily write a will that does what you explained in your post.

The software also has information and forms that allow you to set up a Living Trust.

Even if you decide to hire a lawyer to cover something that the program can't do easily, the information is well worth the $33 IMO.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 2:38PM
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I would also recommend a consultation with a lawyer, in part because yours isn't quite a cookie cutter situation. Joyfulguy asks a lot of good questions, and the answers to some of them will vary from one state to another.

Your local library should have some books (and perhaps software) on the subject. It wouldn't hurt at all to know more before you see an attorney.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 9:28PM
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A will prepared by an attorney isn't that expensive and the real charge is because the attorney actually does estate planning and will suggest things you haven't thought of. We always do a Health Care Power of Attorney also because thats more important and used more often than a will. There are other suggestions that can be made regarding IRA's & pensions or joint ownership of assets. Sometimes there are problems you need to solve now (the house is still in deceased Gramma's name etc.)
Nobody thinks they are going to have any problems with heirs. Maybe in Utopia but in California it happens a lot &maybe in other states.
Lawyers don't care if you want to do your own trust or will. Some of them probably encourage it. If lawyers & judges make mistakes on legal issues in trusts--do you suppose you might? Probate fees are limited by statute in most states.(and the real estate agent gets more) Will contests and trust issues are not--lawyers charge by the hour, and both sides (or several heirs) each get their own attorney.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 7:34PM
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