Having a Will Prepared

cheerful1_gwAugust 15, 2005

My DH and I need to have our wills prepared. The only attorney I know does not gotten back to us. Are there any do-it-yourself type of software programs that we can use? We live in New York State, and our situation is very straightforward. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know there are computer programs and books out there to help with this, for example, I think Quicken has one called Willmaker.

If you want to check this out, go to nolo.com

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 12:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Money" magazine arrived yesterday. I am pasting below a short article which was in it. My mother passed away 2 years ago leaving a well-organized estate with a living trust and a will. It really was a wonderful final gift from her to me and my sister.

Here's the article:

Love Your Family? Write a Will.
September 2005

After 9/11, the government asked attorney Kenneth Feinberg to distribute
funds to the families of 9/11 victims--in all, $7 billion went to 5,562
people. The process left him painfully aware of the inadequate job many
Americans do providing for their survivors.

"Many people were well prepared, with life insurance, 401(k)s, with
other sources of pensions," he says. "A substantial number were ill
prepared. I think fewer than 25% of the victims had wills, and that
ended up causing great problems." Feinberg had to decide who would
receive what, occasionally with relatives arguing bitterly.

If you don't have a will--or, like 40% of those who do, haven't updated
it in five years--you could be bequeathing a legacy of heartache. Before
next week:

Consider writing your own will using software such as WillMaker,
available at nolo.com for around $50.

 If your estate is complicated, find an attorney with expertise in
estate planning and a history of practicing in your state. Expect to pay
$500 or more, depending on your situation.

 For more tips, visit findlaw.org, a legal-resources website. --PAT

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 1:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Suppose someone walked into your home today and told you that, as you were going to die tomorrow, this is what is to happen to your minor kids, assets, etc., quoting to you the provisions provided by your state/province/other legal jurisdiction to cover persons in your situation.

You might well say, "But that's *not* what I want to have done with my kids/assets"!!!

You have the opportunity to provide for those issues as it suits you - now.

You may not have it, later.

They report that something like half of the people intestate (i.e., without a valid will).

Causing hassles, delays and much heavier costs.

At the same time, it is often not wise for individuals to write their own wills, for there may be one seemingly inconsequential issue that blows up into a big deal - later.

When it's too late to repair it.

By the way - if you write your own will, it must in most cases be either all printed or all hand written, not a mixture.

Congession time: Do I have a will?

No, I don't.

That's stupid, on my part.

ole joyful (who figures he ain't never gonna die, I guess)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 6:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

joyful...why don't you have a will?

Are there family difficulties which stop you from
going forward with will preparation?

If you have an estate to leave to someone, especially kids, you can do them a great service by having your affairs in order, like my dear mother did. She cleared the way for me to go through a very difficult time. Everyone should do this.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 6:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So, in other words, if we have a very uncomplicated situation, we don't need an attorney to prepare our wills? Where would an attorney come in?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 8:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you estate is too small to be taxed, it you don't have minor children or dependent adult children, if you don't have investment property that is complicated by multiple owners - then you might not need a will. As a paralegal I drafted many wills - but guess who doesn't have one herself? I waited for a long time because both of my adult daughters thought they should be named guardian for my son. Thank goodness we are past that hurdle. Now I really must get to work on it. I own rental property jointly with one daughter and that requires consideration. My son, though legally an adult, is not prepared to inherit a chunk of money and would need a pay-out system set up for him. I am in better shape than my friend whose children will need trust funds and guardians because they are severely bi-polar.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 12:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have 2 homes, we each have a pension plan, some savings. No children; everything gets split 12 ways between nieces and nephews after we're both gone.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 12:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I can't impress too strongly the importance of a will. Also it is one of the best gifts you can give your family if you have your funeral arangements all looked after - at least your wishes documented, if you do not wish to prepay. Prepaying can save a pile of money. Be sure though, that some of the family know your wishes or your funeral may be over before they realize that you did not get what you wished.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 7:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think that one can find a kit in a stationery store for a reasonable price. Except for the case of an extremely simle estate, I don't recommend using it.

Maybe go through all of the motions, then take it to your lawyer for vetting, at least.

When you go to a lawyer, have a list of all of your assets and a good idea of what method of disposition you prefer.

Have a trustee in mind - who has agreed to act - to look after the collection and disposition of your assets, then their dispersal to the beneficiaries.

Plus an alternate trustee in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act.

If you have minor children, have decided what provision you want to make for their guardianship, plus the agreement of the person(s) involved in the arrangement, and some financial assistance to assist the guardian, if possible.

Know what provision you want to make for which beneficiaries, either in terms of certain assets to be transferred to whom, or dollar amounts, etc.

Be sure you've included everyone that you intended to include.

Take into consideration tax consequences.

For example, suppose you, a Canadian resident, have always lived in your home, worth $200,000, and you leave it to one child, and a Registered Retirement Savings Plan worth $200,000 that you leave to another. Looks as though they get equal bequests - but the proceeds of the sale of the taxpayer-occupied home are tax-free, but the RRSP is fully taxable, so could be reduced by 40% or more due to tax liability.

Be sure that you provide for a residual beneficiary/ies who is to receive whatever residue there is in the estate after all taxes and other bequests have been taken care of.

Though you may not want to include it in your will, decide which of your personal belongings you'd like to go to which relative/friend and list all of those things - and date it.

Make sure that more than one person has a copy - in case that person might arrange for the list to disappear.

Same for your will, as well - a copy in the hands of more than one person (or even two who might collude).

Remember that, in Canada, if you give or bequeath stocks, mutual funds or other financial assets that have increased in value to a charity directly, the tax consequences are much lower than if you liquidate the asset yourself and give the after-tax amount of the same asset to the charity.

Having been a personal financial advisor for some 20 years, I don't have a logical reason for not having made a will myself, apart from inertia.

I've heard from my brother,the retired farmer, both of my kids (plus my own common sense) on the issue.

One of my good friends (the guy who developed and built the grain-fired heaters) died a couple of years ago, my ex- last summer, (my daughter is now liquidating and dispersing her assets) and another good friend a few months ago (at whose funeral I was invited to officiate) ... so, how long do you think it'll take for a reasonably strong message to penetrate my thick skull???

What do they say about cobbler's kids going around with holes in their shoes?

Have a fine weekend, all.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 7:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No one loves wills more than attorneys. Wills go through probate and the court and the attorney get their fees up front and your helpless heirs get what is left. Run, don't walk, to your attorneys office and get a living trust. If you leave a nickel to a nephew he will get the nickel. Wills don't work this way. Please take the time to check it out.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 7:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Without a will, are you certain that your property would go to your 12 nieces and nephews? It won't if any of their parents (from your side of the family) are living. I can't really speak for New York law, but in most states it goes like this to children - then grandchildren etc. (not your case) then to parents - if no parents then to brothers and sisters - if no brothers and sisters then to nieces and nephews. Is there anything in your estate of sentimental value? Your heirs will have little choice but to sell everything if no provision is made for someone to take an item in lieu of cash. The best part of a will is that it makes the whole process so much smoother and less time consuming. It really helps to have named an executor so that the family doesn't have to go to court just to get that done. The executor could authorize money spent on your funeral, access bank accounts, pay bills, sell cars etc. You don't want to wait a long time for those things to get rolling - expecially that funeral part.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 7:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

At this point, the only thing I own (other than household stuff in my apartment) is a car, and I believe my mother is listed as co-owner.

I have some bonds; all list either my sister or my niece as a co-owner. And all of my savings; IRA, 401k, etc., have my sister listed as beneficiary.

In a case like this, is there much point in having either a will or a living trust? I don't have any valuable jewelry, or much of anything that I'd want to "bequeath" to anyone -- is it worth spending money on a will in these circumstances?

(I do have a living will that specifies what should happen if I am incapcitated in anyway -- I don't want to make anyone second guess me on that!)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 9:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Some cheap software should do the trick for you. My neighbor picked up something at Costco that she was very happy with.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 10:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We just purchased Willmaker after seeing it on this site and doing some checking around -it seems to be solid. In our case we have a will that is about 5 years old that we drew up with a lawyer. We want to change the legal guardian for our now 15 year old son. Everything else stays the same. This Willmaker should do the trick for us.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 9:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

One other thing. Our family found this out the hard way, unfortunately. Whem your will is prpared and you have named your beneficiary/beneficiaries, be very sure that you also name who you would like to have their protion if they predease you or don't live 30 days after your death. This is often neglected on even a will prepared by a lawyer.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 2:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

most states would apply the per stirpes rule but it doesn't hurt to make sure that phrase is in there.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 5:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The fact that "your" attorney hasn't gotten back to you is a clue. Get somebody else. I guess you've figured that out. Attorneys will put stuff off indefinitely. Even if he does get back to you get somebody else; punish em.

Please consider doing your own will and have an attorney(s) review it.

If you do your own first it will contain everything you want. If you try to explain to an attorney what you want it MIGHT contain MOST of that. Even if you lay it out in explicit detail they still probably won't get it correct. Not only that it might not even be readable. As you talk they sit behind their humongous desk in their big fat chair and scribble away rocking and nodding. Who knows what they are scribbling? They probably don't or even care. They've seen it before and think they know more about what you want than you do. You also may have to deal with an overbearing secretary that feels the same.

If you do have it done check it very very carefully for everything; spelling, content, clarity, accuracy, sentence structure, lexicon and syntax. I have gotten documents that had incomplete sentences, made no sense or did not even cover what was discussed!

Be totally prepared. Be firm. Don't back down. Be ready to walk out.

The recommendation to do a living trust is extremely good advice. I hope you take it. If you do you should know you will still need a will. It's called a Pour Over Will and is insurance to cover things the trust may fail to cover for various reasons. For example one of my relatives simply forgot to put his house in the trust. Or perhaps he was going to and died first, we don't know. Lotta tax dollars there plus varius costs and much time etc.

Be sure to pick an executor as well as an alternate. Make this choice carefully. It could lead to family strife or even breakup. It need not be a family member. There arguments both ways on that.

Though your situation may appear to you to be quite straight forward the process is not.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 5:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, I agree that most States or Provinces would have rules that apply in such a case but those rules may not be what you wanted. For example a relative left money to a niece. That niece predeceased. She would have wanted the neices amount to then go to the neices children but that did not happen. It went back into the estate and was given to the other direct beneficiaries which did not include the nieces children according to Provincial law.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 8:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Three words: Revocable living trust. It avoids probate (which a will does not). You need a lawyer, and it might cost a couple thousand to set up the trust, but it's a huge help to you heirs not to have to await probate or pay heavy probate fees.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 3:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's true that lawyers make money preparing wills -- but they make as much preparing living trusts. You should consult with a lawyer before firmly deciding either way -- many states have streamlined or eliminated probate for small to modest estates to the extent that a living will costs more than a will. As noted, you might also need a will anyway.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 10:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There are good and bad attorneys, just as in all lines of work. Anyone who wants to have their will and/or trust done by an attorney can find a good one. Ask someone you trust and respect for a referral.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 10:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Someone mentioned that they used a form to make out their will and are happy with it.

It hasn't taken effect yet.

One would like to ask them how happy they were with the result, five years after their death, when they have seen what happened - and were powerless to intervene.

Just a thought.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 2:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don and Mary and whoever else mentioned it are right. A will can be contested, probated, etc. It might tell everyone what you wanted, but isn't worth much more than the paper it is written on without a revocable trust to accompany it. A trust cannot be contested. You name trustee(s) to carry out your wishes when you are gone. A trustee is only the instrument to carry out the wishes you have specified in your trust. They cannot, say, decide that Aunt Martha should have your car instead of Uncle Fred, whom you specified in your trust/will. Before your death, all property specified in the trust belongs to you as trustee. After your death, those things become the property of the trust, and will be dealt with by the trustee of the trust - in accordance with the terms of the trust only. You will be saving yourself and your loved ones many problems by including a trust in your estate planning.

I work for an attorney who prepares several types of trusts, but I am not advocating for attorneys. I am telling you that I have seen and heard first hand of the many problems people have encountered when they have had only a will, and not a trust. And while we're at it, please include an Advance Health Care Directive. That will save your family much heartache also.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2005 at 1:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In this area, a few years ago, at least, if one set up a trust during one's lifetime, called an "inter vivos" trust, the income that it earned would be taxed at the top rate.

If one set up a trust to take effect at and after one's death, called a "testamentary trust", it was tacxed at regular rates. Thus, in some (usually quite a few) cases, it was best for beneficiaries who had substantial other income to have a trust paying them, as that income would not be added to their other income for the year, thus taxed at higher incremental rates.

I'm not sure - I intend to ask someone at the Canada Revenue Agency later this afternoon - but I think that the trust could not benefit from any of the non-refundable deductions that helped individuals reduce their tax load.

But, were the income received directly rather than through the trust, only the one set of non-refundable tax credits would apply, in any case.

Learning how money works is an interesting hobby - that pays well.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   September 22, 2005 at 2:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Joyful guy,

Canadian and American law varies significantly here, so posters should check in their country.

Big Mac

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 11:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The living trust boom is largely the result of late night infomercial financial planning. Most people simply do not need them, but many people mistakenly believe that they are dodging estate taxes by creating them. Estate laws have changed to raise the limits on a tax free transfer. For many estates they are small enough not to require probate and there is no financial benefit. When considering a living trust, you have to consider how much it costs to have a trust prepared (generally more than a will). You have to consider the hassle factor of the reporting requirements for a living trust and the fact that if you transfer things like your house or car to a living trust, you then have to get trust approval before you can sell or transfer those assets. Another hassle! I am a retired (now at home Mom) attorney, but I practiced labor and employment law before. Even though I am an attorney I still paid someone to prepare my estate documents, I feel like it was money well spent. In our case, it was about 1200 for the will.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 9:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The Canada Revenue Agency tells me that not only must the testamentary trust pay tax (granted, at graduated rate) rather than at top rate, as specified relative to an inter vivos trust, ...

... but ...

... when the money is paid from the trust to the beneficiary, it must be reported as income.

Thus - it gets taxed twice.

In almost all cases - no thanks.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 2:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So what is a Will?

A Will is the document that starts the Probate process. It is your instructions to the Probate Judge of your wishes. What most people don't know is that it makes your whole financial picture available for public view and even though it is your instructions to the court, the court does not have to follow it.

In my state probate fees start at 6% of the total value of your estate. Your estate includes EVERYTHING including and not limited to: Real Estate, Personal Belongings, Automobiles, Life Insurance, Jewelry, Bank Accounts, Interest in Businesses, Inheritance, and so on. Your Estate could easily exceed $500,000 to $1,000,000.

In my state that would mean for the privilege of dying my heirs will have to pay the state 6% of the total if nobody "contests" my Will. If you don't have a Will your state has written one for you and I guarantee you won't like it. The average probate fee in my state is 18% to 22%. If Cousin Julie contests the Will by saying that, "No, Uncle Harry said I could have that", then the court, by law, must higher an Attorney to check out your story first. Who do you think pays the Attorney, yep, Uncle Harry's Estate, thereby reducing the amount to be divided amongst the heirs.

Howard Hughes had a Will, or people thought he did. Many claimed he did. But just recently the courts decided that Hughes died "Intestate" or without a will. His Estate is still in probate today. Marilyn Monroe's estate is still in probate, John Wayne, Jane Mansfield and many others.

Many people have been lead to believe that a Revocable Living Trust will protect your assets. Some forms of Inter-vivos (Living) Trust can protect or legally hide assets from prying eyes. However, the standard everyday A/B Revocable Family Living Trust does not. It's sole purpose is to Avoid Probate.

Sure, you can go to OfficeMax and buy a Will Kit and even a Living Trust Kit but, they qre not worth the paper they are printed on. A Simple Will should only cost a few hundred bucks at worst if prepared by an Attorney. As stated earlier by another poster, Attorneys love Wills. Your Will is their retirement plan. Any time an Attorney, who has done a lot of Wills needs money, he/she probates an estate. What a sham.

I've seen Revocable Living Trusts run from $1000 to $25,000. Unless you have multi-millions most Living Trusts by a "Qualified" Attorney should only run $500 to $700 for the basic A/B Trust. If you need or want Asset Protection for your Real Property (your house) then the use of a Title Holding Land Trust is excellent and should only add a few hundred to the cost. Of course there are many types of Asset Protection devices sold by a myriad of Attorneys; however most of us would be fully covered with an A/B Family Trust and Land Trust.

Here's the problem. 90% of all Attorneys who claim to do Trusts have no clue how to draft one let alone understand all their many uses and applications. Most Attorneys use a per-formatted template they get from various industry websites. And, I can guarantee you that less than 1% even knows what a Title Holding Land Trust is, its benefits or its uses for the purpose of Asset Protection.

Note: I am not an Attorney, thank goodness, but have been a Real Estate Investment Consultant and Financial & Estate Planner for over 25 years. I found this website quit by accident years ago and have from time-to-time enjoyed participating in the forums. I hope some of this information helps all of you in your future planning.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2005 at 12:36AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
help!!! advice needed asap for 2nd mortgage
I need to take out $30,000 in equity for desperately...
Don't know where to post this specifically. The thing...
Curt D'Onofrio
Here's a question for those who pay with cash
It happens occasionally, I'll be in a checkout line...
Just because you pay your bills on time.....
doesn't guarantee you have good credit The "Paying...
I NEED to vent!
I am so UPSET Just received a notice from my credit...
Sponsored Products
Basketweave Plynyl Floor Mat by Chilewich
$125.00 | Lumens
Modern Fan Company | Velo Ceiling Fan
$384.00 | YLighting
Area Rug: Paule Marrot Gray Green 5' x 8' Transitional
Home Depot
Bellino Collection Pillowcases
$59.50 | FRONTGATE
Halo Grani 6-button Tufted Dining Chair (Set of 2)
Turnstone | Bivi Table For One Desk With Back Pocket
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™