Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

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Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby RooseveltG » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:13 am

I am re-writing our will and revocable trust documents, using a template created from a software program and several wills. I have always used attorneys for this, however:

1. The exorbitant legal fees seem to be based on my net worth rather than hours of labor.
2. Attorneys overcomplicate the process.
3. For uncontested wills, there are no "estate police" who review every word. (I have 3 children with equal division of the estate).
4. I think I can apply the Boglehead philosophy of low cost and simplicity to estate planning.

I am looking for suggestions, warnings and advice from others who have estate planned "the Boglehead way."

Thank in advance.

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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Toons » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:09 am

Not suggesting whether you should or shouldn't', but I used LegacyWriter
(Not affiliated :happy )

http://www.legacywriter.com/?src=g16off ... nQodOC8AkA
"One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity" –Bruce Lee
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby bsteiner » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:20 am

Most lawyers bill on a time basis. Your net worth is a factor in the sense that if your net worth is high enough, you might consider advanced techniques to reduce your estate tax.

By providing for your children in separate trusts rather than outright, you will better protect your children's inheritances in case a child gets divorced, outlives his/her spouse and remarries, has a creditor problem, does well and has a taxable estate, or goes into a nursing home and wants Medicaid. If you have three children, there's a good chance that at least one of these things will happen in the case of at least one child. You might view spending a few thousand dollars to have a good lawyer prepare appropriate Wills (as well as the additional income tax on trusts and the cost of preparing annual income tax returns for the trusts) as insurance against these contingencies. It may turn out that none of these things happen with respect to any of your children, and the insurance wasn't necessary.

Revocable trusts are appropriate in some cases, and in some states, but for most people aren't necessary. Given your sensitivity to fees, was there some particular reason you created revocable trusts?
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby trudy » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:22 am

I had a good attorney write my will, revocable living trust and powers of attorney.

It took some looking to find an honest attorney. Some quoted incredible fees and two insisted that they would only write the documents if I let them manage my money now. Can you believe that? What, do I look like an idiot? Edited to add: I'm an older woman, maybe that made me look like a potential pigeon.
Last edited by trudy on Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby hicabob » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:26 am

trudy wrote: Some quoted incredible fees and two insisted that they would only write the documents if I let them manage my money now. Can you believe that? What, do I look like an idiot?


That just about takes the cake - I could imagine some interesting boglehead reactions to that suggestion.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Curlyq » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:48 am

Years ago, for my first will, I used Suze Orman's software. For my latest iteration of will, living will, and trust, I used an attorney that was on the list provided with my pre-paid legal plan that I have through work. The wills look pretty much the same, making me wonder if the attorney has secretly purchased Suze Orman's software for her practice. :shock:
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby RooseveltG » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:50 am

bsteiner

I am establishing testamentary (at death) trusts for my 3 children.

I chose revocable trusts to avoid probate. We are also not ready to cede control of our assets with irrevocable trusts.

I do agree that I could find more reasonable attorneys to work with. I always feel like I am paying high fees to have my estate plan plugged into a Word document on their computer. I would not be any attorney's first client who is married and dividing his/her estate equally among children. I also think they overcomplicate matters, resulting in too much complexity and higher fees.

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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby JamesSFO » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:53 am

The reality is that most wills whether by an attorney or software are heavily templated means that you have to think about what it is you are paying for.

1) The attorney if they do wills regularly is likely to be more in tune with the specific issues in your state that are happening right then and now.

2) More personalized advice about how to handle certain situations. The software likely handles 99% of cases fine, but that last 1%, e.g. disabled spouse, disabled child, finer grained control over when/how assets are distributed, is likely to come up short in the software.

My $0.02 is to use your net worth as a guide, the lower your net worth and the more cookie-cutter your situation the more likely the software will be fine. The higher your net worth and the more custom you want the distribution of your estate the more likely an attorney will be needed.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Professor Emeritus » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:56 pm

I'm an academic lawyer. I routinely hire and pay lawyers to do the work I cannot do. You save the most money by relentless and careful preparation to avoid wasting the expensive legal time.
For wealthier people I suggest they have a CPA put their finances in complete order e.g. basis in stock and houses, valuation of odd assets etc BEFORE talking to the attorneys.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:23 pm

If I may piggy-back on the topic,
I have just found out that I can get a free 1-hour consultation with a lawyer. The lawyer would be paid for this hour by my employer. Beyond that hour, I would be paying a discounted rate. I am wondering if I should use this benefit to update my will, which I have created fifteen years ago in a different state. The will is very simple. I am thinking of filling out a template available on my State's web site before the meeting, so that I would have answers to all questions, and complete the entire process in an hour.

Is this feasible?

Victoria
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Peter Foley » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:26 pm

We had an attorney do ours when we first had kids 30 years ago. Some things changed over the years and I retyped the version the attorney had done and made the necessary changes (guardians had moved out of state, sold a rental property, and a few other minor details). As more changes came along we updated again using the now 10 year old will when our kids were in college. This year we updated again as grandchildren arrived - we needed to add "per stirpes" in a number of places and we appointed new executors as our children are now adults with established families.

Each time we have had the wills witnessed. Except for changes over time they read much the same as they did 30 years ago.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby likegarden » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:02 pm

I got forms of will, living will, etc. from the internet for my state. I noticed that 3 witnesses are required for a will, for others 1 or 2. That means I could complete my will only when I could find 3 witnesses at the same time, which I could not, so I have to see a lawyer and pay him for basically nothing. My and my wife's wills are very simple, we have only one son and one grandson, one paid-for house and all investments at Vanguard.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Fallible » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:27 pm

VictoriaF wrote:If I may piggy-back on the topic,
I have just found out that I can get a free 1-hour consultation with a lawyer. The lawyer would be paid for this hour by my employer. Beyond that hour, I would be paying a discounted rate. I am wondering if I should use this benefit to update my will, which I have created fifteen years ago in a different state. The will is very simple. I am thinking of filling out a template available on my State's web site before the meeting, so that I would have answers to all questions, and complete the entire process in an hour.

Is this feasible?

Victoria


Hi Victoria,

Why not get the free advice? I like the way you'll prepare for it to get the most out of it (and the attorney will, too). Your Will (along with other legal matters) most likely will continue to need updating now and then for the rest of your life so you might also ask the attorney for a referral to an attorney where you'll begin retirement (Florida, as I understand it from your other posts :beer). Also, if that first attorney visit goes beyond an hour at a discount, that's probably still a bargain, so if need be, continue to get your questions on anything answered. Make the most of this one!

Fallible
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:43 pm

Fallible wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:If I may piggy-back on the topic,
I have just found out that I can get a free 1-hour consultation with a lawyer. The lawyer would be paid for this hour by my employer. Beyond that hour, I would be paying a discounted rate. I am wondering if I should use this benefit to update my will, which I have created fifteen years ago in a different state. The will is very simple. I am thinking of filling out a template available on my State's web site before the meeting, so that I would have answers to all questions, and complete the entire process in an hour.

Is this feasible?

Victoria


Hi Victoria,

Why not get the free advice? I like the way you'll prepare for it to get the most out of it (and the attorney will, too). Your Will most likely will continue to be updated now and then for the rest of your life so you might also ask the attorney for a referral to an attorney where you'll begin retirement (Florida, as I understand it from your other posts :beer). Also, if that first attorney visit goes beyond an hour at a discount, that's probably still a bargain, so if need be, continue to get your questions on anything answered. Make the most of this one!

Fallible


Hi Fallible,

We have a perfect Behavioral Economics example here. {self-satisfaction smile}

Remember Ariely's "The price of zero"? If I can get an updated will for $0, it's worth my time and effort to schedule an appointment and to prepare for it. If I have to pay anything beyond the first hour, I resort to my usual procrastination. I am not being cheap, I am being behavioral--which I realized only after I have read your message.

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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby downshiftme » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:01 pm

This is a timely thread as I am in the midst of updating my will. I had lawyers quote rates that ranged from $200 to $5000 for essentially the same work. A simple will with minor children. Most of them pushed the idea of creating a living trust for thousands more.

When I last had a will created (decades ago) the lawyer explained that he has a library of clauses that he has written over the years, and he pulls from them like a template, then customizes anything needed beyond that, but that rarely happens. I am willing to pay for the expertise needed to do that, and for the peace of mind knowing it will be witnessed and recorded properly. But I have a hard time seeing why there is a 20x difference in the potential cost of this service.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Fallible » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:02 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Fallible wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:If I may piggy-back on the topic,
I have just found out that I can get a free 1-hour consultation with a lawyer. The lawyer would be paid for this hour by my employer. Beyond that hour, I would be paying a discounted rate. I am wondering if I should use this benefit to update my will, which I have created fifteen years ago in a different state. The will is very simple. I am thinking of filling out a template available on my State's web site before the meeting, so that I would have answers to all questions, and complete the entire process in an hour.

Is this feasible?

Victoria


Hi Victoria,

Why not get the free advice? I like the way you'll prepare for it to get the most out of it (and the attorney will, too). Your Will most likely will continue to be updated now and then for the rest of your life so you might also ask the attorney for a referral to an attorney where you'll begin retirement (Florida, as I understand it from your other posts :beer). Also, if that first attorney visit goes beyond an hour at a discount, that's probably still a bargain, so if need be, continue to get your questions on anything answered. Make the most of this one!

Fallible


Hi Fallible,

We have a perfect Behavioral Economics example here. {self-satisfaction smile}

Remember Ariely's "The price of zero"? If I can get an updated will for $0, it's worth my time and effort to schedule an appointment and to prepare for it. If I have to pay anything beyond the first hour, I resort to my usual procrastination. I am not being cheap, I am being behavioral--which I realized only after I have read your message.

Victoria


Right on, but make that "predictably" behavioral. :)
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Saleen » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:42 pm

Make sure that the will software complies with the will requirements of your state, which can greatly differ from state to state. Some states allow hand-written wills but everything has to be hand written, others the signing must be witnessed by two-disinterested witnesses regardless of the circumstances. In many states, substantial compliance is not acceptable. Thus, you sign the will but one of the witnesses didn't witness your signature, you now die intestate.

You want to be very clear that the will meets your state law's requirements.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Gill » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:54 pm

RooseveltG wrote:bsteiner

I am establishing testamentary (at death) trusts for my 3 children.

I chose revocable trusts to avoid probate. We are also not ready to cede control of our assets with irrevocable trusts.

I do agree that I could find more reasonable attorneys to work with. I always feel like I am paying high fees to have my estate plan plugged into a Word document on their computer. I would not be any attorney's first client who is married and dividing his/her estate equally among children. I also think they overcomplicate matters, resulting in too much complexity and higher fees.

Roosevelt.

This post confirms that you don't have the knowledge or experience to do your own estate plan. You don't have both testamentary and revocable trusts. Also, no one is talking about irrevocable trusts. Send bsteiner a PM and have him do it. You wouldn't ge going wrong.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby emkute » Tue Mar 05, 2013 1:55 pm

Bernd wrote:I got forms of will, living will, etc. from the internet for my state. I noticed that 3 witnesses are required for a will, for others 1 or 2. That means I could complete my will only when I could find 3 witnesses at the same time, which I could not, so I have to see a lawyer and pay him for basically nothing. My and my wife's wills are very simple, we have only one son and one grandson, one paid-for house and all investments at Vanguard.


I had a similar problem. My State requires 2 witnesses plus an optional but desirable notary signature that attests the validity of the witness signatures. My bank had a notary but wouldn't provide witnesses. As it turned out, my Village government office had a notary and allowed two other employees to serve as witnesses. I brought my wills, health care and property power of attorney documents and got it all done in 15 minutes.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby bsteiner » Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:00 am

downshiftme wrote:This is a timely thread as I am in the midst of updating my will. I had lawyers quote rates that ranged from $200 to $5000 for essentially the same work. A simple will with minor children. Most of them pushed the idea of creating a living trust for thousands more.

When I last had a will created (decades ago) the lawyer explained that he has a library of clauses that he has written over the years, and he pulls from them like a template, then customizes anything needed beyond that, but that rarely happens. I am willing to pay for the expertise needed to do that, and for the peace of mind knowing it will be witnessed and recorded properly. But I have a hard time seeing why there is a 20x difference in the potential cost of this service.


It's probably not the same. You (or your wife/mother/sister/daughter if you're male) could buy a dress for $200 or a dress for $5,000, but they would be different dresses. To add a zero, you could buy a car for $2,000 or car for $50,000, but they would be different cars.

From the $5,000 estimate, I'm guessing that if you have minor children, you have a spouse, and the estimate is for Wills for both of you, together with powers of attorney, living Wills and health care proxies (or the equivalent). If your last Will was decades ago and you have minor children, there may be some other complexity in your situation that you didn't describe.

The process includes the initial meeting, which is usually about an hour and a half, in which you decide what your want your Wills to say. The principal decisions are the degree of control the surviving spouse should have, at what point each child should control his/her share, and who should control until then. You'll decide on executors, trustees and guardians. If you're in a state that has a state estate tax with a lower exempt amount than the Federal exempt amount, you'll decide how you want to deal with that. Then there's some time for the lawyer to draft the Wills, proof and fine tune them, prepare beneficiary designations for your retirement benefits, prepare a cover letter with a summary, ideally have a colleague do a peer review, send them to you, answer any questions you may have, and then supervise your signing them.

$200 is unrealistic even for a junior lawyer in a small firm in a small city. $5,000 is probably a larger firm or a boutique firm that focuses on this area of law. You'll have to decide whether your assets are sufficient to warrant that level, or whether some level in between the two is sufficient. You should be able to get a good sense from looking at the different firms' websites.

You didn't say whether there was some reason for a living trust in your case, or in your state. They're appropriate occasionally, and in some states, but for most people they're not necessary, and tend to be a distraction. If there's no particular reason for one in your case, or in your state, then stay away from the ones who were pushing them.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby downshiftme » Fri Mar 08, 2013 1:55 am

Really, the only service I need is to make sure the will is properly signed and put in force. All the designations of guardians and executor are known. I provided a detailed list of all of these. Didn't need a conversation with an attorney to figure them out. The "fine tuning" of the will consisted exclusively of my correcting typos and names from my list that were omitted in the drafts. The only complexity in my situation is that as custodial parent of minor children I need to make sure there is a trust for any inheritance until they are old enough to manage it themselves. I'm not trying to control anyone from the grave or have enough assets that I need to worry about estate taxes or complex trusts.

The factors I see are that up to a fee of about $2000, attorneys are just writing the simple will I want and maybe throwing in a HIPPA and Power of Attorney form. One boutique guy wanted $3500 for that. Above that, the "living trust" appears to be taking the legal profession by storm and they want to bundle a trust with the will, but almost all assets go into the trust now. Do not think I need that, and in fact do not want that kind of complexity. But the lawyers who seem to love them, seem to love them for every possible client situation.

Some simple boilerplate Will would have been fine for my situation (and probably millions of other people, too) but a service that takes care of signing and witnessing to guarantee validity in whatever state you are in could be a gold mine. I cannot see paying thousands for that.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby downshiftme » Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:03 am

I'm curious why $200 is unrealistic for even a junior lawyer. I did find a couple firms that would do it for $200. As a simple situation with minor children, mine is about as simple as possible. Surely they have done one very similar. Use a word processor to edit the old draft and insert the names of me, my kids, and the executor and trustee. Sounds like a short paralegal task and a proof read.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby kramer » Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:04 am

I am retired and single with no children in my late 40's. I am a US citizen and live abroad. And I have been thinking of making my first will.

What about someone like me with virtually no possessions and just brokerage accounts? Tangible things make up way less than 1% of my net worth but my financial net worth is substantial. Everything of value is in the brokerage accounts. In the absence of a will, does my estate mostly avoid probate simply by properly putting the inheritor of my choice on my brokerage account(s). For instance, I have my mother as the inheritor of my IRA accounts but I can't remember what I did with everything else (taxable accounts), I will have to check. The estate would be very simple. Thanks.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby tadamsmar » Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:51 am

I had a DYI will for a while, but Iuse a lawyer now. Don't know the risks of the DYI approach

The lawyer also had us prepare POAs, Healthcare POAs, and Advanced Directives. I think the terminology/names for Healthcare POAs and Advanced Directives may vary from state to state.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Gill » Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:05 am

downshiftme wrote:I'm curious why $200 is unrealistic for even a junior lawyer. I did find a couple firms that would do it for $200. As a simple situation with minor children, mine is about as simple as possible. Surely they have done one very similar. Use a word processor to edit the old draft and insert the names of me, my kids, and the executor and trustee. Sounds like a short paralegal task and a proof read.

You're a bit unrealistic to think you can get it all done for $200. That isn't even fair compensation for the initial meeting in a small town with a lawyer fresh out of law school. Have you had a plumber or an electrician at your house lately?
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby RooseveltG » Thu Apr 04, 2013 12:38 pm

I just wanted to provide a follow up post.

I asked an attorney to review the Will and Revocable Trust documents I cobbled together from older documents and a friend's document. She returned it with more red ink than I have seen on a paper since junior high. I told her to incinerate my old documents and start over.

Bogleheads may be able to invest on their own, but estate planning turned out to be way above my pay grade.

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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Gill » Thu Apr 04, 2013 2:52 pm

RooseveltG wrote:I just wanted to provide a follow up post.

I asked an attorney to review the Will and Revocable Trust documents I cobbled together from older documents and a friend's document. She returned it with more red ink than I have seen on a paper since junior high. I told her to incinerate my old documents and start over.

Bogleheads may be able to invest on their own, but estate planning turned out to be way above my pay grade.

Roosevelt.

I won't say "we told you so" but thanks for your candid response. It's better you discovered this now than have your family inherit a mess when you're gone.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby 2stepsbehind » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:16 pm

RooseveltG wrote:I just wanted to provide a follow up post.

I asked an attorney to review the Will and Revocable Trust documents I cobbled together from older documents and a friend's document. She returned it with more red ink than I have seen on a paper since junior high. I told her to incinerate my old documents and start over.

Bogleheads may be able to invest on their own, but estate planning turned out to be way above my pay grade.

Roosevelt.


I've never met an attorney that couldn't mark up a document--particularly if it was in his or her interest to do so! The question is whether your state would recognize the document you cobbled together and whether your executor would have been able to understand and follow your wishes.

However, as the saying goes, you gotta know when to fold em.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Confused » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:55 pm

bsteiner wrote:It's probably not the same. You (or your wife/mother/sister/daughter if you're male) could buy a dress for $200 or a dress for $5,000, but they would be different dresses.


Did you know that males can buy dresses?
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby kitteh » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:48 pm

emkute wrote:
Bernd wrote:I got forms of will, living will, etc. from the internet for my state. I noticed that 3 witnesses are required for a will, for others 1 or 2. That means I could complete my will only when I could find 3 witnesses at the same time, which I could not, so I have to see a lawyer and pay him for basically nothing. My and my wife's wills are very simple, we have only one son and one grandson, one paid-for house and all investments at Vanguard.


I had a similar problem. My State requires 2 witnesses plus an optional but desirable notary signature that attests the validity of the witness signatures. My bank had a notary but wouldn't provide witnesses. As it turned out, my Village government office had a notary and allowed two other employees to serve as witnesses. I brought my wills, health care and property power of attorney documents and got it all done in 15 minutes.


Our local chamber of commerce office has a free notary service and I imagine the other employees in the small office would act as witnesses if asked. I would bring them a nice box of chocolates or something.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby Dulocracy » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:17 pm

RooseveltG wrote:I am re-writing our will and revocable trust documents, using a template created from a software program and several wills. I have always used attorneys for this, however:

1. The exorbitant legal fees seem to be based on my net worth rather than hours of labor.
2. Attorneys overcomplicate the process.
3. For uncontested wills, there are no "estate police" who review every word. (I have 3 children with equal division of the estate).
4. I think I can apply the Boglehead philosophy of low cost and simplicity to estate planning.

I am looking for suggestions, warnings and advice from others who have estate planned "the Boglehead way."

Thank in advance.

Roosevelt.


1) Many firms that handle estate planning offer flat rates. In Atlanta, our firm handles estate matters on a regular basis, and it is always on a flat rate. See if such a firm exists in your area. Some firms get an hourly rate on cases that are extremely complex where extensive research and creative writing is required to meet the goals of the client. I do not know most firm's rates, but our rates on wills are $500 for an individual and $750 for husband/wife wills (the wills often mirror each other, thus the discount). The attorney can look into your goals, do research, and get a much better result than software. If you do use software, make sure it is legal in your state (each state has its own probate laws). I have seen wills that were not valid because of either 1) bad software/incorrect procedure or 2) user error (like using a beneficiary as a witness). It can be worth it to get an attorney to assist with this in my opinion.

2) A good attorney will keep it simple. They will bring up issues for you to consider. For example, I had a client that was leaving his house to his daughter. Because she was under 18, that would have been a very bad thing in this state. If the house needed to be sold to avoid foreclosure (or her guardian was moving, or whatever reason) or needed a mortgage for the purpose of repairing a roof, they would need to hire an attorney to get permission to encumber the land. By using a simple provision, the child still got the house, but a trust would be created at that time. It did not cost more for him to have this option, and it would only cost if he died. It is a much better option, however. Estate planning is riddled with situations like this that the attorney can point out. Of course, that kind of complicating the matter is a good thing... the attorney made it simpler in the end.

3) This is in no way a dig at the OP or his family. It amazes me how often people assume that the will will be uncontested. Uncontested means that no one contests it. You are dead when this happens and you cannot control it. One family member is there more at the end. One spends more time helping with at home care. One has a power of attorney. People have all sorts of reasons for bringing up extra matters. Families do not have to hate each other to contest a will. The sad part of this area of law is that MANY healthy families fight and break up over matters of estate. Sometimes it is money. Sometimes they care so much they will fight. I have seen two adults fight a long and expensive battle over Mama's favorite dress because they both loved Mama so much. I promise you Mama did not want her children to fight.

4) Similarly, you could apply low cost to doing electrical work or hip replacement surgery. Unless you have training, some things are worth paying for. Do find an attorney who handles matters on a flat rate basis. To give you a comparison, in the Atlanta area, you would not spend more than $1,000 on wills to get a good but reasonably priced attorney. Trusts will run from $3000 for a simple trust or spendthrift trust to $10,000 for a more complicated trust, with most trust being $3,000 to $5,000.

While I do not have a problem with someone using software for a will, I would be very careful. Realize that the advice the attorney would give is the main thing you are paying for. Those details the attorney will see that can make a huge difference will be missing. I think it is worth the price (and not just because I am an attorney, but because I know what an attorney can do to help someone in planning). I would NEVER recommend using software for a trust.

I hope this helps. Good luck!
I'm not a financial professional. Post is info only & not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship exists with reader. Scrutinize my ideas as if you spoke with a guy at a bar. I may be wrong.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby happyjuice8000 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:43 pm

Prices for "estate" attorneys to do a will can vary from $600 total as a flat rate, but some will charge $600 per HOUR. Shop around.

If you have a very simple situation, then a DIY will should suffice, as long as it's witnessed, notarized, and filed appropriately.

However, as other contributors mention, your children may lose their inheritance in divorce, lawsuits, or poor spending/investing. The most heartbreaking is when your child divorces and the ex-wife or ex-husband or ex-partner takes HALF. Yikes!

The trust laws and probate laws are state specific. For example, where I live in NJ, probate is speedy, and a will is fine. In CA, it can take a year or more, so a trust is more commonplace.

Either way, think about NOT to whom you want to give money (kids, grandkids, charity). Think about the greedy gold diggers to whom you DON"T want to give money (ex-spouses, lawsuits, etc).
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby rr2 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 6:25 pm

I have used Quicken Willmaker. Our situation is fairly simple -- married with no kids. Hopefully this will be sufficient.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby MoonOrb » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:54 pm

I am a lawyer who, at the beginning of my legal career, prepared hundreds of wills, some trusts, and other estate planning documents for military members, retirees, and their families.

These wills and trusts were for what I would consider "simple" estate plans--not much in the way of assets, and few beneficiaries. It would usually take me no more than four hours from start to finish to do wills, any associated trusts, and medical directives and POAs. This included meeting with the clients and proofreading the documents. My clients prepared intake questionaires beforehand that I would discuss with them in our meeting. Meetings took 20 minutes to an hour.

So, if you have a pretty simple estate planning situation, I think you can get set up with everything you need for $2000 or less. If your situation is not simple, then you really should consider paying whatever it is you need to pay to make sure you take care of your assets and beneficiaries (I mean, you pay insurance premiums, right? This is a little bit like that).

I like the option of doing the template-based software, but I can tell you that if one of my clients had brought that in, it would not have saved me any time because I would have had to have compared what I would have done against whatever software-created will the client brought to me. It likely would have been more time-consuming than you'd expect. Even the relatively simple wills I created for clients were many pages full of dense legal gobledygook. It's annoying that it is that way, but believe me, you really want to make sure the right legal gobledlygook is in there when you need it.

I'm not pleading with anyone to avoid using the will-creating software. But, there is some risk to it, especially if you have a somewhat complex estate. Just something to keep in mind, depending on how important having a rock-solid estate plan is to you.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby rr2 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:46 pm

MoonOrb wrote:I am a lawyer who, at the beginning of my legal career, prepared hundreds of wills, some trusts, and other estate planning documents for military members, retirees, and their families.

...

I'm not pleading with anyone to avoid using the will-creating software. But, there is some risk to it, especially if you have a somewhat complex estate. Just something to keep in mind, depending on how important having a rock-solid estate plan is to you.

Do lawyers not use template based software as well in order to insert all the "gobbledygook"?
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby rr2 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:49 pm

RooseveltG wrote:I just wanted to provide a follow up post.

I asked an attorney to review the Will and Revocable Trust documents I cobbled together from older documents and a friend's document. She returned it with more red ink than I have seen on a paper since junior high. I told her to incinerate my old documents and start over.

Bogleheads may be able to invest on their own, but estate planning turned out to be way above my pay grade.

Roosevelt.


Now take the will your new attorney prepares and take it to another attorney for review. Just tell the new attorney that this was prepared by software. I'd be curious to know what would happen.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby MoonOrb » Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:50 pm

rr2 wrote:Do lawyers not use template based software as well in order to insert all the "gobbledygook"?


Yes. At least, I did. There are probably lawyers who completely write their own wills from scratch and use their own language as a template for other wills. I wasn't one of those.

And, of course, I'd make changes to the stock language as appropriate for each client's circumstances.

But the language produced by the programs isn't uniform, so if someone had come into my office with a will based on some other software, I would have had to go through the draft will line by line to figure out if the will was accomplishing what the client intended for it to accomplish. This would have taken a lot longer than just creating a will for them myself. If the client was using the exact same software, my answer would be a lot different. That would be pretty easy to compare side by side.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby rr2 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:26 pm

MoonOrb wrote:
rr2 wrote:Do lawyers not use template based software as well in order to insert all the "gobbledygook"?


Yes. At least, I did. There are probably lawyers who completely write their own wills from scratch and use their own language as a template for other wills. I wasn't one of those.

And, of course, I'd make changes to the stock language as appropriate for each client's circumstances.

But the language produced by the programs isn't uniform, so if someone had come into my office with a will based on some other software, I would have had to go through the draft will line by line to figure out if the will was accomplishing what the client intended for it to accomplish. This would have taken a lot longer than just creating a will for them myself. If the client was using the exact same software, my answer would be a lot different. That would be pretty easy to compare side by side.

Thanks for your feedback. I understand better. I assume that if someone brought you a will prepared by another attorney using a different software template, it would still take you the same amount of time to review it. Are there many different will making software available to attorneys?

The general opinion of retail software programs for will making is that they seem to work for simple situations i.e. single/married with no kids.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby bsteiner » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:21 pm

rr2 wrote:Are there many different will making software available to attorneys?


There are several. Most of them are not very good.
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Re: Should Bogleheads Write Their Own Wills?

Postby MoonOrb » Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:39 pm

rr2 wrote:Thanks for your feedback. I understand better. I assume that if someone brought you a will prepared by another attorney using a different software template, it would still take you the same amount of time to review it. Are there many different will making software available to attorneys?

The general opinion of retail software programs for will making is that they seem to work for simple situations i.e. single/married with no kids.


I'm only really familiar with the software we used, which was good, although it was generally only for relatively straightforward estate plans. I know that there is a whole bunch of software out there which is more "do it yourself" than "for lawyers to use," so I don't know if there are dozens of options out there for lawyers or just a few that dominate the market.
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