Will - what is complicated?

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markwarren66
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Will - what is complicated?

Post by markwarren66 »

I'm embarrassed to admit how long I have put this off, but I need to get a will or something similar together. I've read through many posts on this, and there seems to be a split of people saying to use LegalZoom, WillMaker, etc versus going to an attorney. The key phrase that comes up when differentiating between the two choices is whether the situation is complicated. I don't know if my situation is complicated, so I'd like some guidance before I invest time writing one myself or paying an attorney.

40, wife is 38. 3 kids under 10.

We own our home and have the usual retirement accounts and a taxable account. Does the value of our assets matter in this decision, knowing they are currently well below our state and the federal tax limits?

Anything else that would deem this as complicated?

Thanks -
Rupert
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Rupert »

IMHO (and I am a lawyer but not a T&E lawyer), if there are minor children involved, it is complicated. Why? Because the stakes are higher. If you screw it up, your surviving children pay the price.

Edited to add this: If for no other reason, you should hire a competent local attorney to handle this for you so that the person you designate as your children's guardian has someone to turn to for help when he/she inherits your distraught children. It will be an extremely stressful time, and you don't want that guardian to also have to scramble to find a local attorney to handle any legal issues related to the guardianship.
Last edited by Rupert on Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

Rupert wrote:IMHO (and I am a lawyer but not a T&E lawyer), if there are minor children involved, it is complicated. Why? Because the stakes are higher. If you screw it up, your surviving children pay the price.
I agree. You do not know what you don't know. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your exact situation and evaluate the recommendatin(s) and alternatives.
wolf359
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by wolf359 »

Do both. Get a will program and run through it's questionnaire. At the very least it gives you and your spouse a chance to discuss the issues (and learn what they are) before you talk to an attorney. Since the lawyer charges by the hour, the more you hash out in advance, the better.

If you're happy with the results of the will program, you can stop there. Or you can move onto a lawyer to review your results and add their expertise. (However, I agree with the other posters. Because of the children, make sure it's right. Minor children require trusts. That needs expert review.)

Will programs are cheap relative to lawyers. It's worth it just to get an overview.

For more examples of what is complicated, read "Beyond the Grave, Revised and Updated Edition: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others) " By Jeffrey Condon.
tic
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by tic »

I was wresting with the same question this year. Then I discovered that if I enrolled in even the smallest supplemental life insurance policy offered by my employer, will preparation services with a lawyer were included with the policy. Total cost to me: ~$30 worth of premiums. I don't want the insurance, so I'll just drop the policy during the next open enrollment period, now that the will is done.

So, I'd first make sure that will preparation is not an ancillary benefit offered through your employer, as there is a chance this is not even a decision you would need to make.
open_circuit
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by open_circuit »

tic wrote:I was wresting with the same question this year. Then I discovered that if I enrolled in even the smallest supplemental life insurance policy offered by my employer, will preparation services with a lawyer were included with the policy. Total cost to me: ~$30 worth of premiums. I don't want the insurance, so I'll just drop the policy during the next open enrollment period, now that the will is done.

So, I'd first make sure that will preparation is not an ancillary benefit offered through your employer, as there is a chance this is not even a decision you would need to make.
I second what tic said. My last employer offered will preparation as an ancillary benefit, and DW's new employer offers it attached to supplemental life coverage.
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CAsage
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by CAsage »

From what I have read (and I'm a hardened DIY), if you mix up IRA/401k and trusts, it's complicated. The wording has to be so precise, and you definitely will need a trust for long term provisions for children. It does somewhat matter how much money you have ... a very modest estate can simply create a testamentary trust within the will, but that does not work for IRA and 401k stuff. So - with enough money that you don't want someone to hand them a check at 18, see a lawyer! It gets simple enough when they are much older and responsible, then you can leave it to them directly. Also, a superfast and cheap will can at least appoint guardians - anyone with children needs that, and you can upgrade later.
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Argus714
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Argus714 »

We had wills drawn up two years ago with a lawyer. Why "wonder" if you're doing it correctly with a software, when a professional will understand and know what your needs require. Also, the law office keeps a copy on file in case something happens with the original.

Our experience was a set fee for preparing and notarizing the will, healthcare proxy (HCP) and homestead on our residence. Not an hourly fee. Total cost was just north of a grand.

Finally - you and you wife will most likely and should, have separate wills and HCP's - not combined.
songman52
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by songman52 »

IANAL, but I believe wills are very state-specific. If both parents are deceased who takes care of the children until they are adults? What if one parent dies and the other is incapacitated? What becomes of the surviving parent and the children? These would be my main concerns and I would want them handled appropriately under the state laws so there would be no unforeseen glitches. When we had our wills drawn up several years ago, we were given a packet to fill out and provide lots of information to the attorney, who then drew up the papers and sat with us to make everything final and official.

We used to have a local call-in radio program hosted by local attorneys that I listened to on a weekly basis. I found many of the questions, answers, and anecdotes quite interesting, informative, and entertaining. I've heard too many stories of unintentional consequences from not having a properly planned out will that considers contingencies and accounts for the quirks of our state laws to advise anyone to do a self-made will. And if I recall correctly, the "fill-in-the-blank" wills always include the caveat that one should have the forms scrutinized by an attorney.

And I agree with the answers others have given, above.
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bottlecap
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by bottlecap »

There's an old saying that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

I'm not sure what this makes one who is not a lawyer that represents himself, but it's worth pondering, especially when the stakes are high.

Kids are complicated for non-attorneys, but luckily not that complicated for attorneys.

Here is another small, yet large, example of "it's what you don't know," that just popped into my head. In my state, there is a difference between an "heir" and an "heir at law". Do non-lawyers who draft their on wills know that? Do they know what their will says? If they do, can they tell you the difference? Nearly 100% of the time, the answers are no, no, and no. Yet if you slip those two words in just once, it will make a material difference.

I don't know what terms the canned software wills use, and hopefully they get it right. But people who draft their own wills tend to not know what legal terms of art mean and they can make a big difference to your heirs (and heirs at law)...

Do it right.

JT

P.S. I had another thought. After you speak with an attorney, draft a letter to him or her going over the wishes you discussed (ie. "As we discussed, this is how I want my assets distributed..."). Keep your copy with the final will. I can't say that it will be ironclad, but it might help your intended heirs recover from the attorney if the attorney screws something up royally. Your heirs can't sue a software company for malpractice, but they can a lawyer. This might give you some added peace of mind.
Last edited by bottlecap on Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
TIAX
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by TIAX »

Most attorneys will meet with you for free. Meet with one and ask them.
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marti038
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by marti038 »

wolf359 wrote:For more examples of what is complicated, read "Beyond the Grave, Revised and Updated Edition: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others) " By Jeffrey Condon.

I just bought the Kindle version on Amazon for $1.99 BTW. You don't have to have a kindle to read this version, just the kindle app.
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

TIAX wrote:Most attorneys will meet with you for free. Meet with one and ask them.
Not necessarily. Some estate planning attorneys have free (or very low cost) group intro sessions. Some have an (up to one hour) introductory session to make recommendations and may charge $100-$300.

Many such attorneys have community based speaking sessions for groups.
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

With minor children, there are two vital aspects to such planning. One is who will (or may) care for the children and the other is providing financial support for their care. For many reasons, you may want to separate the two functions. [In other words, if your sister will take custody of the children, you may not want to just leave her all your assets].
cadreamer2015
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by cadreamer2015 »

With minor children I would never trust a software written set of estate planning documents. The will is probably the least of the issues:

Durable powers of attorneys - who can act for you if and your spouse are incapacitated?
Durable powers of attorneys for health care / Advanced Health Care directives - who do you want to make decisions about your health care if your and your spouse are incapacitated?
Guardian for your minor children if you and your spouse are dead - make sure you've cleared this with the prospective guardians!
Set up trust for your minor children if you and your spouse are dead - Testamentary trust? Who is the trustee? How can the trustee be replaced and under what conditions? What are the terms of the trust? Do you want the corpus of the trust distributed to the children at age 25, 30, 35? What happens to a child's share if they die before receiving a distribution from the trust?

Also, do you want your retirement accounts/POD accounts to go directly to your children or into a trust?
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Theoretical
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Theoretical »

The documents are the easy part, at least as far as the will goes. It's not complicated to say "If I die, A gets everything and A should manage the estate. If A's dead it goes to my kids and Bob should be the executor."

Powers of attorney can get sticky.
Minor children inheriting anything is complicated. This is even more so with retirement accounts.
Real property out of state or any foreign property.

I've done dozens of estate plans for others and made many wills and trusts for complex and simple situations. My wife's a tax CPA. With a lot of businesses (including investing), you want to see if the advisor eats his own cooking. In this case, we're seeing a trusts and estates lawyer to provide an appropriate plan based on our circumstances and plans.

With designing trusts, it's very easy to make administration costly and complicated if you aren't careful in drafting it. Alternately, its very common to end up with minor children that've already suffered significant emotional trauma being given full control over a large pile of money in their early 20s. That rarely goes well, but simply restricting the money leads to all kinds of complications.
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markwarren66
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by markwarren66 »

Wow, thanks for the great feedback. Pretty resounding advice to work with an attorney. That was my gut, but I always try to consider the DIY route first. I'll read a couple books and be prepared to lessen the cost, but it seems like a smart investment to work with an expert.
MathWizard
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by MathWizard »

Use a lawyer.

They can write 2 wills, (one for your wife, one for you) it so that it covers any other children you have,
who will take care of the children, what if both of you die at the same time, ...
all with the exact language that is needed in your state.

Once you get a couple of well written wills (and assuming you do not divorce) you;ll never have to update them
if you don't want to (other than maybe 2nd executor when your kids are adults.)

We will just be updating our wills (probably just a codicil) to name one of our sons as the
secondary executor (after the spouse) substituting for my older brother.

It costs us $300. 25 years ago, but it was something we did not want to mess up.

If it was just money, I wouldn't have cared, but we got one right after the first child was born.
flyingbison
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by flyingbison »

markwarren66 wrote:Wow, thanks for the great feedback. Pretty resounding advice to work with an attorney. That was my gut, but I always try to consider the DIY route first. I'll read a couple books and be prepared to lessen the cost, but it seems like a smart investment to work with an expert.
As an alternative to commercial software, you might check to see if your state provides forms or templates for wills, POAs, etc. I found that Basic Will, Basic Will with Trust, POA, Healthcare POA, and Disposition of Remains forms are all available for free from the state.
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celia
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by celia »

wolf359 wrote:Do both. Get a will program and run through it's questionnaire. At the very least it gives you and your spouse a chance to discuss the issues (and learn what they are) before you talk to an attorney. Since the lawyer charges by the hour, the more you hash out in advance, the better.
Here's an example of some things you need to think about: Suppose you and your spouse don't die for 40 years and never update your will.
* If one child is married, one child is divorced, and one child is deceased, and they all have a different number of kids, how do you want your assets split?
* If one child or grandchild has special medical needs, do you leave more for them?
* If one child can't handle money (in severe debt), do you still leave them their share to pay off the debts?
* After you die, if your spouse remarries and has kids with someone else, do those kids get some of your currently-joint money?

Since the unknown future possibilities are endless, be sure you review your documents and wishes whenever you have life changes or every 10 years. Also review your beneficiaries listed on all accounts. (I know someone who died while in his working years and his first wife got all of his retirement savings leaving the current wife with nothing, because he likely forgot to update the beneficiaries when he remarried. Bogleheads, is this you?)
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gasdoc
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by gasdoc »

I am answering this thread only because I think the OP is getting one-sided advice. Does everyone that has posted so far really believe a group of attorneys in the state of X could not write up software for the typical couple with a couple of kids, where the questionnaire asks you who you want to have control of the kids, and asks you who you want to manage the trusts for the kids until the kids get to be a certain age (which you decide)? And do you really think there is not a common way to handle what happens when one parent dies at a certain age, or both parents die at the same time? I have used Legal Zoom several times now, and for several family members (using it once in probate), and the process is straightforward as long as your situation is common. Yes, you can find problems with LegalZoom, but at least their templates have been tested thousands, if not millions, of times. That is more than you can say for every individual attorney that may have graduated from some unknown, unacredited law school somewhere and took twelve times to pass the boards. Do you really believe an attorney takes a common situation with common goals, and individualizes it every time he writes it up? Or is it more likely some lowly paid assistant plugs in the names on the template and the attorney charges $1400? Just my opinion- and I am pretty conservative.

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gasdoc
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by gasdoc »

What is complicated?- in my opinion, once divorce and/or remarriage occurs, it is complicated. If I owned a business and wanted something to happen other than selling the business at my death, I would consult an estate attorney. Based on my experience, it is more important to redo the wills every couple of years and as conditions change than it is to necessarily use an attorney for an uncomplicated will. Again, just my opinion.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Sandtrap »

dm200 wrote:
Rupert wrote:IMHO (and I am a lawyer but not a T&E lawyer), if there are minor children involved, it is complicated. Why? Because the stakes are higher. If you screw it up, your surviving children pay the price.
I agree. You do not know what you don't know. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your exact situation and evaluate the recommendatin(s) and alternatives.
+1
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bottlecap
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by bottlecap »

gasdoc wrote:Yes, you can find problems with LegalZoom, but at least their templates have been tested thousands, if not millions, of times. That is more than you can say for every individual attorney that may have graduated from some unknown, unacredited law school somewhere and took twelve times to pass the boards.
gasdoc:

I know we come down differently on this issue, but the vast majority of attorneys graduate from an accredited law school and finding out where is as simple as glancing at the wall of their office. Perhaps this is hyperbole?

I also have to take issue with the idea that legal zoom wills have been "tested thousands, if not millions of times." After death, the will is the will. There's not much to test. Sure, it could be invalidly executed, but if its terms do something other than what the testator intended, there is no way to challenge it. Perhaps this is hyperbole?

You don't get a do over once you're dead, so there is no way of accurately knowing whether any of the legal zoom wills do what the now-deceased testator intended.

Legal zoom does tell you that they are not giving you legal advice and that their product is not a substitute for consulting an attorney.

I suggest that the OP try some Google searches and make up his/her own mind.

JT
flyingbison
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by flyingbison »

gasdoc wrote:I am answering this thread only because I think the OP is getting one-sided advice. Does everyone that has posted so far really believe a group of attorneys in the state of X could not write up software for the typical couple with a couple of kids, ...
I agree with you gasdoc, but on this site it seems about 80/20 in favor of using a lawyer for these things.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Alan S. »

Never underestimate the importance of naming an effective executor. You could have drafted the perfect will, but if you named some incompetent or conflicted relative as executor the probate process can turn into a real disaster, possibly ending in litigation.

The choice of executor needs to be under periodic review because circumstances change before your death. Generally, a competent and detail minded relative is considered the best choice for a fairly simple estate. Complications arise in determining how far short of this description the family member should fall before seeking a professional executor for the job instead.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by JGoneRiding »

I can only tell you what i did. I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of children without a will. A will is the only way to designate a legal guardian. But we are also only currently pregnant and expect our situation to become more complicated but currently not (and yes i think money increases complication)

So i did an online will that covered all questions i thought important but also was simple. I plan to leave this in place until we are done having children and then have trusts and wills drawn up.

Your children are already half grown i would get wills and if there is sufficient money trusts set up with a lawyer asap. But lay them out as you would expect them to inhert as adults with simple professions for care as minors (not tons of restrictions etc)
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

flyingbison wrote:
gasdoc wrote:I am answering this thread only because I think the OP is getting one-sided advice. Does everyone that has posted so far really believe a group of attorneys in the state of X could not write up software for the typical couple with a couple of kids, ...
I agree with you gasdoc, but on this site it seems about 80/20 in favor of using a lawyer for these things.
When you have children (minors), do you want what the "typical" couple wants? Or what a group of attorneys think the typical couple wants?
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by flyingbison »

dm200 wrote:
flyingbison wrote:
gasdoc wrote:I am answering this thread only because I think the OP is getting one-sided advice. Does everyone that has posted so far really believe a group of attorneys in the state of X could not write up software for the typical couple with a couple of kids, ...
I agree with you gasdoc, but on this site it seems about 80/20 in favor of using a lawyer for these things.
When you have children (minors), do you want what the "typical" couple wants? Or what a group of attorneys think the typical couple wants?
I'm not sure what is typical, but anyone who wants to do something other than what is laid out in a standard will form or template should definitely go to an attorney.

Personally, I tend not to worry too much about covering every possible contingency. If I die, everything goes to my partner, if living. If she's not living, then everything goes in a trust for my child until she reaches 18.
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

There is "theory" and actual experiences (good and bad). I wonder if there are any folks with actual experience of a "do it yourself" will involving minor children and how things worked out, or those with direct knowledge (perhaps relatives) of such experieices.

Years ago, through some good friends, I was aware of a huge mess when parents died suddenly, leaving two daughters - one a teenager. They left the home to both directly and it was a gigantic mess for the house to be sold -even though that was best and very fair to all. It cost them money to work it out plus a delay in making the sale. All of that could have been very smooth if the parents had done this correctly.
mickroark
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by mickroark »

Don't forget you also need a, for each person.

Durable power of attorney
Power of attorney for Health Care
Living Will

ouch
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bengal22
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by bengal22 »

Not to be too cynical but like financial planning there is a whole industry designed to make people think that planning for your death is complicated and impossible for the average person to navigate. But if your family is untrustworthy definitely get legal help.
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lthenderson
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by lthenderson »

wolf359 wrote:Since the lawyer charges by the hour, the more you hash out in advance, the better.
Perhaps this varies greatly by location but I've not found this to be the case. Most estate lawyers around here will quote you a set price for the entire package of documents, ours included a will, power of attorney, living will and a document describing our burial wishes. Our set price included the initial meeting, a fact finding meeting, several email correspondences to answer questions that came up and the final review meeting, along with the final sit down to get everything signed, copies made and long term storage of one copy of the will at the lawyers office where it is accessible 24/7 by designated family members.

To the OP, I had completed a will several years earlier using an online software but never got around to getting it witnessed or notarized. By chance, I met an estate attorney at a trivia contest and got to talking about the subject. The questions he raised, especially about situations of what happens to my kids if both of us die, one dies and one becomes incapacitated, both of us become incapacitated, or our DIY will can't be located or accessed immediately by family members and several other situations. It really convinced me that having minor children complicates things enough that my DIY will wasn't anywhere close to being enough. When I asked the man what he charged for a basic document package with two minor children he quoted me $250. I scheduled the appointment the very next day and was very glad I did.
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Peter Foley
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Peter Foley »

I am a committed do-it-yourselfer. However, when we had minor children the stakes were just too high to get it wrong and we went to a lawyer to draw up our wills. Naming an executor and naming a guardian for minors are two important decisions.

I've personally redone our wills a few times over the past 30 years. The original wills we had done were the templates. I basically retyped the originals and then modified and/or eliminated paragraphs that no longer were relevant, e.g., investment properties have been sold, parents have died, children are grown and have families of their own.

The one thing not covered by the original wills and planning was the designation of beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries on all accounts. This is an important step that should not be missed. Instructions to an executor as to how to handle finances for minors is also important.

Others have mentioned the importance of power of attorney and health care directives. Possibly these have become part of a "package" for many attorneys who specialize in this area. If not, you should have them done as well.
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

lthenderson wrote:
wolf359 wrote:Since the lawyer charges by the hour, the more you hash out in advance, the better.
Perhaps this varies greatly by location but I've not found this to be the case. Most estate lawyers around here will quote you a set price for the entire package of documents, ours included a will, power of attorney, living will and a document describing our burial wishes. Our set price included the initial meeting, a fact finding meeting, several email correspondences to answer questions that came up and the final review meeting, along with the final sit down to get everything signed, copies made and long term storage of one copy of the will at the lawyers office where it is accessible 24/7 by designated family members.
To the OP, I had completed a will several years earlier using an online software but never got around to getting it witnessed or notarized. By chance, I met an estate attorney at a trivia contest and got to talking about the subject. The questions he raised, especially about situations of what happens to my kids if both of us die, one dies and one becomes incapacitated, both of us become incapacitated, or our DIY will can't be located or accessed immediately by family members and several other situations. It really convinced me that having minor children complicates things enough that my DIY will wasn't anywhere close to being enough. When I asked the man what he charged for a basic document package with two minor children he quoted me $250. I scheduled the appointment the very next day and was very glad I did.
My strong preference is for a fixed price, including review of drafts, signing and witnessing all documents, details about beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc. In our case, we had an initial (for a fee) 30-60 minute (ours took about 45) review of the entire situation and recommendation(s) - each with a fixed price. This was for two wills (my wife and I). In reviewing the drafts (done by email), we discovered two drafting errors and they were corrected quickly. One error was in making my will and my wife's to be "mirror images" and the other was due to a slight misunderstanding of our desires for some aspect. Also included in the fixed price was a full review of the final documents, but we did not need this. This attorney conducted general free group intro to estate planning sessions so we got to "get acquainted" at no charge and determined that we could communicate very well.
Theoretical
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Theoretical »

Very few estate planning attorneys charge hourly for anything other than specialized, highly unusual or specific language that's client specific, and then it's a flat fee plus a rider if it's not simply a higher quoted flat fee. The other time is when significant counseling as to asset dispositions or business structuring is required in a blended family situation. I had a very savvy couple once that each had kids from prior marriages and each had substantial estates. The actual formal documents proved rather simple in the end, but targeting and addressing each interest equitably required significant meetings beyond the norm.

Oh yeah, and any blended family situations should not be DIY'd, ever.

Also, if you're following the usual bogleheads approach of loading up tax-advantaged accounts, it's not that hard to get the trusts to qualify as pass through trusts for your children, but it's really easy to badly screw them up or force a 5-year distribution with standard trust language.

Speaking to the business side, there's a serious cost-benefit side to the attorney for tackling middle income estate planning. It's essentially a black swan event for 99% of young and middle aged couples with kids for both parents to die before the kids are of age. It's a low chance, awful outcome problem.
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

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Theoretical wrote:Very few estate planning attorneys charge hourly for anything other than specialized, highly unusual or specific language that's client specific, and then it's a flat fee plus a rider if it's not simply a higher quoted flat fee. The other time is when significant counseling as to asset dispositions or business structuring is required in a blended family situation. I had a very savvy couple once that each had kids from prior marriages and each had substantial estates. The actual formal documents proved rather simple in the end, but targeting and addressing each interest equitably required significant meetings beyond the norm.
Oh yeah, and any blended family situations should not be DIY'd, ever.
Also, if you're following the usual bogleheads approach of loading up tax-advantaged accounts, it's not that hard to get the trusts to qualify as pass through trusts for your children, but it's really easy to badly screw them up or force a 5-year distribution with standard trust language.
Speaking to the business side, there's a serious cost-benefit side to the attorney for tackling middle income estate planning. It's essentially a black swan event for 99% of young and middle aged couples with kids for both parents to die before the kids are of age. It's a low chance, awful outcome problem.
A previous estate attorney charged by the hour. We did not know (our fault) ahead of time what exactly this meant and that he had to research basic things (while our meter was running).

A personal friend who is a general attorney (never used her for this) insists that she only does wills, etc. by the hour.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

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The combination of minor children and retirement accounts pretty much forces complexity. The kids would not be permitted to manage the retirement accounts as minors. You would need someone to do that on their behalf. The best solution is trusts that hold the retirement accounts, but these get complicated quickly. If your retirement accounts are small and a small portion of your assets, then you might be willing to accept a very inefficient use of them. But if, like many people, you are counting on those assets to provide a substantial part of the support of your kids if they become orphans, then you need to be concerned about using this money effectively. That means trusts and that is complicated.

You could appoint a guardian with a simple will. Each adult could leave everything to the spouse with a simple will. You could leave everything to adult children with a simple will (although retirement funds would still do better with trusts). But providing for minors gets more complicated.
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

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afan wrote:The combination of minor children and retirement accounts pretty much forces complexity. The kids would not be permitted to manage the retirement accounts as minors. You would need someone to do that on their behalf. The best solution is trusts that hold the retirement accounts, but these get complicated quickly. If your retirement accounts are small and a small portion of your assets, then you might be willing to accept a very inefficient use of them. But if, like many people, you are counting on those assets to provide a substantial part of the support of your kids if they become orphans, then you need to be concerned about using this money effectively. That means trusts and that is complicated.
You could appoint a guardian with a simple will. Each adult could leave everything to the spouse with a simple will. You could leave everything to adult children with a simple will (although retirement funds would still do better with trusts). But providing for minors gets more complicated.
We are long past minor child(ren), but my understanding is that a will does not definitively establish guardian(s) for your minor children if you both die. My understanding is that guardianship must be granted by a judge, taking into account many factors.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Theoretical »

It's not absolute (except many times for designating who is prohibited from serving), but the parents' wishes are given an awful lot of weight. It is important to designate who is barred from being guardian or trustee.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

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bottlecap wrote:I also have to take issue with the idea that legal zoom wills have been "tested thousands, if not millions of times." After death, the will is the will. There's not much to test. Sure, it could be invalidly executed, but if its terms do something other than what the testator intended, there is no way to challenge it. Perhaps this is hyperbole?
The challenge to a software-generated will should follow the same process had it been written by a lawyer (using software or not). After death, a "challenge" is a "challenge". You could challenged some action that either will specifies be done, but I highly doubt you can challenge a will just because it came out of a computer. The computer didn't "write" it. The deceased did. (If the deceased had written a hand-written will, would you challenge it because of the pen?)
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Not Law »

gasdoc,

So if I were going into surgery, it would be OK with you if I self anesthetized? Because of course the professional probably went to some Caribbean wannabee medical school. And who also charges way too much for the value received.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by gtd98765 »

Well, I have a different view. The legal industry is very adept at creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt, which I try to resist. I find it difficult to believe that if you have relatively straightforward circumstances like most Americans, that software can not do the job just as well. If you are leaving almost everything to your spouse or dividing it equally among children, I think software will do fine.

I have used Willmaker Plus several times over the years. It asks many of the key questions listed above, and responds appropriately. E.g., it tells you you shouldn't leave property to minors and helps you create a trust to do so instead. It prompts you to think about executors, bequests, guardians for minors, health care directives, etc. It claims to provide wills that are valid in every state except Louisiana.

If you have a vast amount of money, want to disinherit a child, or expect a relative to contest the will, sure you need a lawyer. But otherwise, I would think twice, and at least read some of the good consumer-oriented legal advice on http://www.nolo.com .
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by bottlecap »

celia wrote:
bottlecap wrote:I also have to take issue with the idea that legal zoom wills have been "tested thousands, if not millions of times." After death, the will is the will. There's not much to test. Sure, it could be invalidly executed, but if its terms do something other than what the testator intended, there is no way to challenge it. Perhaps this is hyperbole?
The challenge to a software-generated will should follow the same process had it been written by a lawyer (using software or not). After death, a "challenge" is a "challenge". You could challenged some action that either will specifies be done, but I highly doubt you can challenge a will just because it came out of a computer. The computer didn't "write" it. The deceased did. (If the deceased had written a hand-written will, would you challenge it because of the pen?)
You misunderstand.

My point is that danger arises precisely because the software-generated will is unlikely to be contested, because the unwary, uneducated (as to the law) testator in fact "wrote" it.

This is also why I take issue with the claim that such wills have been "tested" thousands or millions of times. That is almost certainly untrue.

But the software-generated wills could create a situation where the testator wants asset X to go to beneficiary Y, but the will, under the law, mistakenly provides that asset X goes to beneficiary Z. Testator doesn't know it does this, but can't change it after death. Maybe the software was wrong or the testator misread the question or misclicked the mouse. But good luck to beneficiary Y challenging the mistaken bequest.

My point is that the terms of a written will that is determined to be valid are neigh impossible to challenge. Legal zoom, which says it doesn't give legal advice and that its product is not a substitute for consulting an attorney, also acknowledges that contesting a valid will can be very difficult.

JT
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

Not Law wrote:gasdoc,
So if I were going into surgery, it would be OK with you if I self anesthetized? Because of course the professional probably went to some Caribbean wannabee medical school. And who also charges way too much for the value received.
Interesting analogy :)

I go to considerable effort to be very well informed on health and medical issues (I have no health/medical training) that are fact and science based. I always see physicians regularly, disclosing everything I take (not a lot) and following Physician recommendations, although I often ask questions and want to be fully informed. I, now, often ask if I really need that X-Ray or CT scan, and my Physicians seem, in general, seem not at all unhappy that I ask such questions. My Primary care physician now regularly will ask, "What do you think?"

I feel similarly about estate documents. Become fully informed, know the questions to ask -- but depend on an experienced attorney to do the documents.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

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bottlecap wrote:My point is that danger arises precisely because the software-generated will is unlikely to be contested, because the unwary, uneducated (as to the law) testator in fact "wrote" it.
But how will the executor and heirs know who wrote it, except for the fact that the lawyer-generated will may be on letterhead paper?
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by Random Poster »

bottlecap wrote:PYour heirs can't sue a software company for malpractice, but they can a lawyer.
It gets a bit tricky, and it has been a while since I was in law school taking a wills and trusts class, and it all depends on the specific jurisdiction, but my recollection is that although the heirs can sue a lawyer for malpractice, the heirs weren't the client of the attorney (the decedent was), and thus the lawyer wouldn't be liable as to the heirs for any malpractice.
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by gasdoc »

Not Law wrote:gasdoc,

So if I were going into surgery, it would be OK with you if I self anesthetized? Because of course the professional probably went to some Caribbean wannabee medical school. And who also charges way too much for the value received.
That would be a bit "complicated." But if you wanted to look under WEB MD, and try treating your cold symptoms for a few days on your own, that would be absolutely fine.

gasdoc
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dm200
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by dm200 »

Random Poster wrote:
bottlecap wrote:PYour heirs can't sue a software company for malpractice, but they can a lawyer.
It gets a bit tricky, and it has been a while since I was in law school taking a wills and trusts class, and it all depends on the specific jurisdiction, but my recollection is that although the heirs can sue a lawyer for malpractice, the heirs weren't the client of the attorney (the decedent was), and thus the lawyer wouldn't be liable as to the heirs for any malpractice.
It seems to me that, except for some unusual gross screwups, the heirs (and other interested parties) either would not know or could not document that the will did not conform to the stated desires and intents of the deceased. Suppose, for example, that the deceased had three children, bit only named the older two in the will - the youngest not born when the will was done. In my opinion, a properly done will would provide for all children, in one way or another, but how could it be demonstrated that the deceased did not want only the first two to inherit?
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Re: Will - what is complicated?

Post by celia »

Random Poster wrote:
bottlecap wrote:PYour heirs can't sue a software company for malpractice, but they can a lawyer.
It gets a bit tricky, and it has been a while since I was in law school taking a wills and trusts class, and it all depends on the specific jurisdiction, but my recollection is that although the heirs can sue a lawyer for malpractice, the heirs weren't the client of the attorney (the decedent was), and thus the lawyer wouldn't be liable as to the heirs for any malpractice.
Doesn't the executor (or trustee) represent the trustor in outstanding legal matters?
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