Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

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Amy2017
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Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:39 pm

Hi,

Have read many articles in the past on the importance of having a will, but we never did anything. My husband does not want to discuss this topic in general because it makes him feel uneasy. Me neither. But I think maybe we should do it. Here is our situation. We have two minor children. We have one primary home and 12 rental properties, all clear and free of mortgages. Total real estate assets worth around $2.8 million. We also have investment in Roth IRA, 401K, 529 Plan, etc. accounts worth around $1 million. Not sure our situation is considered simple or complicated from a will perspective. Basically, all the money will go to the other spouse if one of us dies. If both of us die, then all the money goes to two kids equally. If the kids are still minor at the time, we will appoint my husband's sister as the guardian. Could LegalZoom or Nolo WillMaker handle this? Or we need hire an estate plan attorney?

My next door neighbor is an attorney as well as county magistrate court judge specializing in business laws. Do you think he could take a look of my will after I prepare them through LegalZoom or it is not a good idea to let your neighbor know too much about your financial situation? My next door neighbor has handled a legal dispute for us recently. Even though he offered doing it for free, we gave him a $200 gift card just to say thank you. I could ask him for a reference of an estate plan attorney. But not sure how much those attorney usually charge? If they charge a lot, that will give my husband another reason not doing it.

Thanks for the advice.
Last edited by Amy2017 on Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jebmke
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by jebmke » Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:48 pm

In my opinion, you should consult an qualified estate lawyer.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:53 pm

So you think our situation is complicated enough that requires an attorney's expertise?

jebmke
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by jebmke » Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:56 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:53 pm
So you think our situation is complicated enough that requires an attorney's expertise?
My theory on wills is that you only get one chance to get it right. After you are dead it is too late. With your assets and minor children I think you would benefit from professional advice.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

swimfin
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by swimfin » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:10 pm

+1 on jebmke's advice

A Legalzoom will may or may not comply with the laws of the state where you reside. It would be tragic to learn you have an invalid will AFTER you die because then it would be too late.

For minor children, you should consider setting up a testamentary trust in your will naming a corporate fiduciary ( such as a trust dept at a large bank ) to serve as trustee.

Family members are fine to serve as guardian of the person of your child, but not so fine at serving as guardian of the estate of your child.

Yankuba
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Yankuba » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:10 pm

What is the going rate for a will in a major city? My attorney who does our real estate closings wants $2500 and a friend just paid $2500. I was only charged $1500 for the the real estate closings which I imagine require more hours of labor than plugging a few names into a document. Our will should be garden variety - nothing fancy or complex.

J295
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by J295 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:25 pm

Find a lawyer you like and get this done. There are a host of other things you are not likely even considering (you don't know what you don't know). With assets of around $4 million (and perhaps life insurance death benefits), you are penny wise and pound foolish to not see legal counsel.

As it now sits, you likely have no medical or general powers of attorney for either of you should one of you become ill/incapacitated. You have no trust in place for your minor children (so, say you both die now and your assets double by the time each child reaches age of majority .... then at that age (say 19 in your state?) the minor gets a check for $4 million). You may want your sister for guardian, but there's no legally binding document now to accomplish this. etc., etc.

Regarding any discomfort on this topic (which I've never related to), parents aren't doing this for themselves, there doing it to make life more manageable for their kids if the tragic and unlikely event of losing both parents early occurs.

finallyinvesting
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by finallyinvesting » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:40 pm

Longtime lurker, first time commenter.

I suggest hiring an estate planning attorney in your local area rather than using an online service such as LegalZoom. An estate planning attorney can draft a will and the other associated documents to help you minimize the tax burden on the survivors. In addition, a good estate planning attorney can discuss with you other options with regard to how assets are held. You may think a basic will would cover you but with a few million in assets you'll want to make sure the tax burden on survivors is minimal, that any minors are properly accounted for, and evaluate if other means of holding assets present advantages over holding them individually.

As a business attorney, I'll tell you that a good number of matters I deal with are those where clients have used online legal services thinking it was cheaper. In reality it only created more problems down the line, cost significantly more money, brought on stress that didn't need to happen, and wasted a lot of time.

I'd like to add that while many people don't like thinking of end-of-life planning it's a gift to yourself and your survivors. Doing it right gives peace of mind that your wishes are preserved as best they can. So many put this off, but it doesn't go away. It sounds like y'all have put a lot of thought into investing and financial management. This type of planning is just an extension of that. We're all going to die, so why not make sure what matters most to you is covered in how you leave your assets?

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:46 pm

Thanks a lot for all the advice here and in private messages. I really appreciate. I feel embarrassed to say I have no clue of the will terminology in several of the replies. I guess that means I don't know what I don't know. If we do plan to hire a attorney, do I need to be familiar with all these terminology to have a meaningful conversation with an attorney or that is what we hire the attorney for?

Nate79
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Nate79 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:52 pm

I disagree in general with the advice on this site to always use an attorney for making a will. In simple cases software like Quicken Willmaker can do state specific will also with power of attorney, etc. But in your case you have a sizable estate with somewhat complex real estate holdings and multiple children. I would suggest also to use an attorney. Any chance you have legal advice service thru your work benefits?

J295
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by J295 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:04 pm

Amy2017. You don't need to know the terminology. A good lawyer will explain these things (or answer your questions) in a way that you should easily understand.

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tadamsmar
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by tadamsmar » Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:05 pm

You "have investment in Roth IRA, 401K, 529 Plan, etc. accounts worth around $1 million."

Do lawyers even have to expertise to advise you on how to handle those? Do they typically do that? It's typically best that those do not go to the estate. The will only covers the estate. I used a lawyer for my will, but I did not get anyone to advise me on how to set up beneficiaries on my accounts.

I just looked at my POAs that were prepared by an expensive lawyer. It has clauses about the POA having the right to change and recover my passwords, but I don't think that is consistent with the policies of Vanguard and other brokerages. Expensive lawyers may not do a perfect job either!

You do need a will simply because the inheritance plan in your original post is probably not the default plan that your state will impose if you die intestate. "intestate" means "without a will". You can look up the intestate laws in your state. If you have no will, then the courts will appoint guardians for the minors if need be and a conservator if they inherit any significant amount.
Last edited by tadamsmar on Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:13 pm, edited 6 times in total.

LarryAllen
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by LarryAllen » Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:06 pm

Biggest problem I have seen with Legalzoom, and similar, is people fail to execute the documents properly. This can create, and I have seen first hand, much bigger problems than just dying without a will. So, if you go the legalzoom route pay attention to their instructions for executing the documents.

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:35 pm

My work does not provide legal advice benefit. But I have talked my husband into hiring an attorney after reading all the replies here. Regarding the beneficiary set up of the retirement accounts, I have always set up either my husband or myself as 100% primary beneficiary. Then each of my kids as 50% contingent beneficiary. I will get the attorney's opinion on whether or not to put this into will. I know it is very unlikely to happen, but just the thoughts of what needs to happen if both of us die when our kids are still young make me feel sad.

jimmy123
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by jimmy123 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:01 pm

But not sure how much those attorney usually charge?
So ask a few. It's a rare attorney that doesn't want new clients and those that don't will quickly tell you.

I paid $800 for will, trust, financial PoA, healthcare PoA, etc. This was at a fairly large local law firm with commercial clients, so probably expensive for our town. This was an introduction from a family friend.

Though I am sure the actual documents would be very similar to what could be produced online but we got a lot of value from the discussion with the attorney and I sleep a little better knowing we have a professional set of documents that are correctly executed in our state.

Money well spent IMHO.

Ragnoth
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Ragnoth » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:39 pm

I would recommend working with a local lawyer to have a will prepared. Cookie cutter wills are only really suitable for simple situations where there isn't a ton of money at stake (e.g., unmarried man with $50k in the bank leaves it to his sister).

Depending on what state you are in, you may have also reached the tipping point where you would benefit from proper estate planning.

You are below the threshold where you would get dinged with federal estate taxes, but some states (e.g., MA) will start hitting you with estate taxes when you have as little as $1 million in assets. A proper estate plan can make sure that your assets are protected for your children, both from a "taxes" standpoint, as well as a more practical money-management standpoint.

You say you want the "money to go to two kids equally," but this is a little simplistic. Would you prefer that the properties be liquidated and the money given to the children, or would you prefer that the property be maintained and only the *rents* be given to the children? Working with a lawyer will help you parse through these questions, and help you identify some common pitfalls.

For example, rather than saying "the money sits there until the kids hits 18," a more sophisticated estate might give small regular disbursements directly to the caregiver, distribute lump-sums to cover college tuition, and give out the remainder in two lump sums at ages 25 and 30. This can let the kids have a relatively normally childhood and build up a bit of maturity before being given $1+ million to play with.

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F150HD
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by F150HD » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:47 pm

With your assets and minor children I think you would benefit from professional advice.
+1

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:24 pm

So far neither my husband nor I have ever inherited any money from any relatives. So wills are not something we have any experience with. Thanks a lot for the advice here. Although I don't enjoy the topic of end of life planning, I understand now that I should put aside my emotion for my kid's benefit. I have already asked my neighbor for a good reference. Hopefully I could get this done soon and don't need to think about it again for a long time.
Last edited by Amy2017 on Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Watty
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Watty » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:09 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:39 pm
Here is our situation. We have two minor children. We have one primary home and 12 rental properties, all clear and free of mortgages. Total real estate assets worth around $2.8 million.
I used legalzoom and was happy with it and have given it good recommendations for legalzoom in a number of threads like this when people asked about getting a will but your situation is way too complex for that, by far. Using will software would be even worse since at least with Legalzoom you have a phone conference with a lawyer.

One huge risk of not having a will is that if something happens to you then your kids might not be raised but who you would want them to be raised by. There is a very real risk that if you die without a will then there could be a court fight about who gets custody of the kids, and the money, and your least favorite relative might fight the hardest to get them. If nothing else you might be able to get your husband on board with at least getting a basic will by mentioning some of the specific relatives that might get control of your estate and kids.

The rental properties would also be a huge problem if you died without a will since it could take a year or longer to get the situation straightened out and in the meantime there might not be anyone that could renew leases or deal with decisions that need to be made.

J295
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by J295 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:52 am

Amy217. Good decision. With a good lawyer with experience in estate planning this should be painless, and I hope you sleep well knowing that you have pushed through your discomfort out of love for your family.

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tadamsmar
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by tadamsmar » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:33 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:35 pm
My work does not provide legal advice benefit. But I have talked my husband into hiring an attorney after reading all the replies here. Regarding the beneficiary set up of the retirement accounts, I have always set up either my husband or myself as 100% primary beneficiary. Then each of my kids as 50% contingent beneficiary. I will get the attorney's opinion on whether or not to put this into will. I know it is very unlikely to happen, but just the thoughts of what needs to happen if both of us die when our kids are still young make me feel sad.
You might want to suffix the kids' names with "per stirpes". Certainly before they grow up and have kids of their own.

I read the guardians for minors may be put in the will. Not sure if that covers financial guardians.

Rupert
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Rupert » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:50 pm

Watty wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:09 pm

The rental properties would also be a huge problem if you died without a will since it could take a year or longer to get the situation straightened out and in the meantime there might not be anyone that could renew leases or deal with decisions that need to be made.
This is why your situation is particularly complicated. Legalzoom and the will-making software available is fine for simple wills (read -- no minor children, most assets in accounts with named beneficiaries), but there is nothing simple about your situation, OP.

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:49 pm

Not sure whether this will make our situation even more complicated. My husband and I actually created a LLC a while back, which holds majority of our rental properties, but not all of them. Ideally I prefer having all of them under LLC, but since that may require either talking to an attorney or multiple trips to the county courthouse, we have not got a chance doing it. It was created initially for asset protection purpose. We also bought $2 million umbrella insurance in additional to regular home and landlord insurance just in case. My thoughts on rental properties is that hopefully we could add our kids' name as either members or owners of the LLC when they grow up. This seems the most efficient way to transfer the property ownership. My knowledge on will, trust, estate planning, etc is very limited. So this may just be my wishful thinking.

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Watty
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Watty » Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:11 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:49 pm
My thoughts on rental properties is that hopefully we could add our kids' name as either members or owners of the LLC when they grow up. This seems the most efficient way to transfer the property ownership. My knowledge on will, trust, estate planning, etc is very limited. So this may just be my wishful thinking.
More dangerous than wishful. It it was not done right then the kids could lose the chance to inherit the property at a stepped up cost basis. You also have to worry about things like if one of your kids gets married and divorced then the ex-spouse might get part of the LLC.

The fantastic news is that you are so well off that getting professional estate planning would be well worth the effort and cost.

Rupert
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Rupert » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:55 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:49 pm
Not sure whether this will make our situation even more complicated. My husband and I actually created a LLC a while back, which holds majority of our rental properties, but not all of them. Ideally I prefer having all of them under LLC, but since that may require either talking to an attorney or multiple trips to the county courthouse, we have not got a chance doing it. It was created initially for asset protection purpose. We also bought $2 million umbrella insurance in additional to regular home and landlord insurance just in case. My thoughts on rental properties is that hopefully we could add our kids' name as either members or owners of the LLC when they grow up. This seems the most efficient way to transfer the property ownership. My knowledge on will, trust, estate planning, etc is very limited. So this may just be my wishful thinking.
Yes, that makes it even more complicated and even more imperative that you see a good estate planning attorney. It will likely cost you several thousand dollars, but it will be money well spent in your case. It will save your estate and your children loads of money in the long run.

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:55 pm

Several thousand dollars! That is a lot of money. No wonder 60% of Americans do not have a will.

tibbitts
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by tibbitts » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:06 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:55 pm
Several thousand dollars! That is a lot of money. No wonder 60% of Americans do not have a will.
The combination of the real estate, some in an LLC and some not, and minor children definitely complicates your situation. I used software to make my own, but there's just me and one other person involved. Your situation is somewhat more complicated than most people have.

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Watty
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Watty » Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:10 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:55 pm
Several thousand dollars! That is a lot of money. No wonder 60% of Americans do not have a will.
Without a will having your estate turned over to a lawyer to be a court appointed trustee to manage it for your heirs could burn through thousands of dollars a week until your kids are old enough to receive what little is left of your estate.

Ron Scott
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Ron Scott » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:36 am

Trusting an online app and a neighbor for this sounds like the first 20 minutes of a cheap horror movie.

MrJones
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by MrJones » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:21 am

Amy2017 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:55 pm
Several thousand dollars! That is a lot of money. No wonder 60% of Americans do not have a will.
Far more than 60% of Americans do not have an LLC holding multiple rental properties either.

A vast majority of Americans without a will probably do not have assets to worry about passing on either.

My point is, although I empathize with your sticker shock, as a previous poster pointed out, the good news is the cost of a good lawyer for your will is still very small compared to the assets you desire to protect.

Rupert
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Rupert » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:41 am

Amy2017 wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:55 pm
Several thousand dollars! That is a lot of money. No wonder 60% of Americans do not have a will.
More than 60% of Americans have no assets outside of a little equity in their homes and their retirement accounts. You, on the other hand, have almost $3 million in real estate investment assets. Do you seriously think spending a few thousand dollars on proper planning for the distribution of those assets upon your death is a lot of money? File that under "penny wise, pound foolish."

You're planning for the care of your children, both emotionally and financially, should you die unexpectedly. What do you think that should cost?

bgf
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by bgf » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:50 am

Yankuba wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:10 pm
What is the going rate for a will in a major city? My attorney who does our real estate closings wants $2500 and a friend just paid $2500. I was only charged $1500 for the the real estate closings which I imagine require more hours of labor than plugging a few names into a document. Our will should be garden variety - nothing fancy or complex.
real estate closing prices are a scam. straight up. i'd love for a real estate lawyer to tell me I'm wrong, but you basically just paid $1,500 so that the attorney's paralegal could draft form documents, they could hire someone for like $15 an hour to check the chain of title in the deed records room, and then have the lawyer show up <1 hour for the signing of the documents. BOOM $1,500 of pure legal value!

see if you can find a lawyer to draft your will hourly rather than flat fee.

bsteiner
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by bsteiner » Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:38 am

A nationally prominent trusts and estates lawyer, now retired, tried doing a Will for himself on LegalZoom (as a test, not to actually sign it). He said it was pretty good, though it didn't offer all of the choices that he would have wanted. So it may be a good solution for some people who have very modest estates and basic situations. Of course, you would have to know which choices to select.

However, in this case, the original poster has a $4 million estate, including an LLC, minor children, and $1 million of retirement benefits. So neither LegalZoom nor the low price lawyers is likely to be appropriate.

The LLC doesn't make the planning complicated. The Will operates on whatever she has at her death (other than life insurance and retirement benefits that pass to the named beneficiaries), whether an LLC interest or anything else. Whether she should have an LLC or multiple LLCs, and if so, what the LLC should own and who should own the LLCs, are beyond the scope of this discussion.
Yankuba wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:10 pm
What is the going rate for a will in a major city? My attorney who does our real estate closings wants $2500 and a friend just paid $2500. ...
It may be worth spending more money to have a lawyer familiar with trusts and estates do this rather than a real estate lawyer.
tadamsmar wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:05 pm
You "have investment in Roth IRA, 401K, 529 Plan, etc. accounts worth around $1 million."

Do lawyers even have to expertise to advise you on how to handle those? Do they typically do that? ...
Some do. Some don't. The original poster may want to select one who does. There are some special requirements for trusts that receive IRA benefits in order to qualify for the stretch. See my article on this subject in the March 2004 issue of BNA Tax Management's Estates, Gifts & Trusts Journal: http://kkwc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015 ... 132954.pdf.
Ragnoth wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:39 pm
...
For example, rather than saying "the money sits there until the kids hits 18," a more sophisticated estate might give small regular disbursements directly to the caregiver, distribute lump-sums to cover college tuition, and give out the remainder in two lump sums at ages 25 and 30. ...
Since no one knows what the future will bring, a more sophisticated lawyer would generally recommend that the trustees have discretion as to distributions, and that instead of mandating distributions at ages 25 and 30 (or some other age(s)), each child would gain control of his/her trust at a specified age. For this purpose, control means that the child can become a trustee, can remove and replace his/her co-trustee (provided the replacement trustee is not a close relative or subordinate employee), and the child has the power to appoint (give or leave) the trust assets to anyone he/she wants (other than the child or his/her estate or creditors). This keeps the children's inheritances out of their estates for estate tax purposes, and provides better protection against the children's creditors and spouses.

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:08 pm

Thank you so much for so many thoughtful replies here. When we first started real estate investing several years ago, I spent hours and hours reading online resource to finally overcome the learning curve. When I thought back, I think we have made all the critical decisions correct because of the knowledge I gained from the forums like this. It may not provide all the information, but at least you now know which words you need to put in to Google search. :D Looks like it is time for me to start the journey again to overcome another learning curve.

NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:01 pm

Just to give you some more incentive - I knew a family in Georgia. Mom worked at MegaCorp, dad owned a small business, 2 kids. Dad died. The small business ownership was then split, 50% to mom, 25% to each kid. Or maybe each got 33%. In any case, she had to petition the court to let her be the conservator for her kids' shares of the business, and report on how she managed the money after the business was sold. So if you don't want to run into a mess like that, do some estate planning now.

PatrickA5
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by PatrickA5 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:25 pm

I just did a will for my SIL using Willmaker. It should be fine. BUT, she's single, no kids, will never have kids, almost zero assets and will be leaving everything (if any) to my DW (her sister).

We had an attorney handle our Wills, POAs, Healthcare Directives, etc. years back. I'm currently looking for an Estate lawyer that specializes in nothing but estates, probate, elder law, etc to go over our documents and make suggestions. I'm willing to pay what it takes.

For example, when I die, everything goes to my DW. What if DW marries some Bozo that talks her into leaving everything to him? Our kids could potentially not get anything. Sure, it's a long shot and I trust my DW of 39 years, but I don't want the pool boy to get my kids inheritance. These are the kinds of things that a good estate lawyer should be able to help with. A good book that can open your eyes to what can happen is "From the Grave". Check it out on Amazon.

Ragnoth
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Ragnoth » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:32 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:38 am
Ragnoth wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:39 pm
...
For example, rather than saying "the money sits there until the kids hits 18," a more sophisticated estate might give small regular disbursements directly to the caregiver, distribute lump-sums to cover college tuition, and give out the remainder in two lump sums at ages 25 and 30. ...
Since no one knows what the future will bring, a more sophisticated lawyer would generally recommend that the trustees have discretion as to distributions, and that instead of mandating distributions at ages 25 and 30 (or some other age(s)), each child would gain control of his/her trust at a specified age. For this purpose, control means that the child can become a trustee, can remove and replace his/her co-trustee (provided the replacement trustee is not a close relative or subordinate employee), and the child has the power to appoint (give or leave) the trust assets to anyone he/she wants (other than the child or his/her estate or creditors). This keeps the children's inheritances out of their estates for estate tax purposes, and provides better protection against the children's creditors and spouses.
Thanks for clarifying this a bit. I was definitely being too simplistic. This is a great example of why people should always involve an actual professional (and get proper legal advice) when setting up an estate.

Amy2017
Posts: 38
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:36 pm

PatrickA5 wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:25 pm
A good book that can open your eyes to what can happen is "From the Grave". Check it out on Amazon.
I don't find the book called 'From the Grave', but I do see one called 'Beyond the Grave'. Is this what you refer to?

MrsBDG
Posts: 51
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by MrsBDG » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:48 pm

I, too, agree that LegalZoom etc. are fine for simple wills and trusts, I did my parents that way and it worked out fine. However, your need for the attorney is to have him ask you questions about things you are unaware of, your estate value should grow and could eventually be at risk for federal estate taxes, also you would address state death taxes, plus all sorts of other complex issues about which you may be unaware.

One non lawyer step I recommend, we have a couple of rentals, I made a list for my exector/successor trustee showing all the details they would need to know about running each one if we died suddenly, who to call, handyman, banking & lease details, in my case website advertising info (ABB), cleaning set up, just everything she/he would need to know in order to keep things running smoothly while they get the big picture figured out. I did the same with our 'real business', website logins, who to talk to about each area of the business so that, if we both die in a car crash, she/he can make sure things that are in the pipeline are properly addressed and that things get wound down appropriately. With guests coming and going, as well as long term tenants, and with business clients, it seems like this "what to do right now" list is very important.

Each January I update and put my login and password details in my trust folder, I think I will do the same with these 'what to do in case' documents.

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:15 pm

Thanks for telling me your way of organizing the rentals. I always admire people who have such strong will to have everything organized. We managed our rental properties ourselves. So I know how hard it is to keep track of everything and maintain updated records?

PatrickA5
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by PatrickA5 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:55 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:36 pm
PatrickA5 wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:25 pm
A good book that can open your eyes to what can happen is "From the Grave". Check it out on Amazon.
I don't find the book called 'From the Grave', but I do see one called 'Beyond the Grave'. Is this what you refer to?
Yes, that's it. Sorry for the confusion. I'm not too good about remembering things these days.

engin33r
Posts: 22
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Location: Silicon Valley

Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by engin33r » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:25 pm

I too am looking for an estate planning attorney in the state of Georgia. Please PM me if you have recommendations or other info.

Amy2017
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:02 pm

Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:19 pm

PatrickA5 wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:55 pm
Amy2017 wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:36 pm
PatrickA5 wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:25 pm
A good book that can open your eyes to what can happen is "From the Grave". Check it out on Amazon.
I don't find the book called 'From the Grave', but I do see one called 'Beyond the Grave'. Is this what you refer to?
Yes, that's it. Sorry for the confusion. I'm not too good about remembering things these days.
Me neither. I guess that is another sign I need to have a will soon. :) Several replies mentioned about life insurance. Actually we never bought any life insurance other than the one provided at work. It is a small amount and job related. So I don't really count on it. I thought about buying the life insurance a while back, but did not take any action. Then last year I read some articles saying if you have enough assets for your children already, it is not necessary to buy life insurance any more.
Last edited by Amy2017 on Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:20 am, edited 3 times in total.

Amy2017
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:40 pm

engin33r wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:25 pm
I too am looking for an estate planning attorney in the state of Georgia. Please PM me if you have recommendations or other info.
Sure. But right now I plan to read the book suggested above before talking to an estate planning attorney. I think the meeting will be more productive if I have some ideas of the pros and cons of different approaches.

MrsBDG
Posts: 51
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by MrsBDG » Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:59 am

In your case, I would suggest life insurance for estate liquidity, assume you have no estate taxes, but what if all your rentals do not debt service, or if expensive repairs are needed and it is a bad time, either a bad time to liquidate stocks in the market, or a bad time to sell real estate. Imagine if one died in 2009 with massive real estate holdings, that would have been a painful liquidation.
I perceive you are young, given your kids ages, get some inexpensive term life insurance, check term4sale.com and they will direct you to three agents in your area.

Amy2017
Posts: 38
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:13 am

Thanks for the suggestion. We have some CDs and saving bonds(I bonds) as emergency fund. I could increase that holding to $100K or more if necessary. But I generally prefer not putting too much money into CDs or saving bonds. Will that be enough for a short period of time before the rental income comes in? Although I am far from normal retirement age, I do have a pre-existing condition (breast cancer survivor), so I assume buying a life insurance will be either very expensive or I may not be qualified at all.

bsteiner
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Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by bsteiner » Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:49 am

Amy2017 wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:40 pm
engin33r wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:25 pm
I too am looking for an estate planning attorney in the state of Georgia. Please PM me if you have recommendations or other info.
Sure. But right now I plan to read the book suggested above before talking to an estate planning attorney. I think the meeting will be more productive if I have some ideas of the pros and cons of different approaches.
The book has some useful information, and is popular here. But it's geared to community property states, particularly California. It doesn't deal very much with taxes (though with a $5,490,000 (indexed) estate tax exclusion amount and portability, most people won't pay estate taxes). Most important, it focuses on the two end points in providing for children, either outright or in trusts that they don't control. However, most of our clients select a middle ground, providing for their children in trust rather than outright, but allowing each child to control his/her trust upon reaching a specified age.

Amy2017
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:02 pm

Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Amy2017 » Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:05 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:49 am
The book has some useful information, and is popular here. But it's geared to community property states, particularly California.
Do you have any recommendation of more appropriate books for my situation? Something not too difficult for average folks to understand and follow?

Thanks.
Last edited by Amy2017 on Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Rupert
Posts: 2670
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:01 pm

Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by Rupert » Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:40 pm

Amy2017 wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:05 pm
bsteiner wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:49 am
The book has some useful information, and is popular here. But it's geared to community property states, particularly California.
Do you have any recommendation of more appropriate books for my situation? Something not too difficult for average people to understand and follow?

Thanks.
Not a book, but this link is to the Georgia Legal Aid Society's page on wills and Georgia probate law: https://www.georgialegalaid.org/issues/ ... -estates-1

It's written with lower-income folks in mind (not you), but it's a good place to start as it's deliberately written to be easy to understand.

finallyinvesting
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Re: Draft a will with legalzoom or other online legal help

Post by finallyinvesting » Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:21 am

For most people a will is just fine because they don't have a complex portfolio of assets and the assumption is that the spouse survives. Keep in mind, though, that a will, when probated becomes public information.

A basic will that leaves all assets to the surviving spouse, together with the suite of POAs (health care, mental health care, durable general) and the advanced health care directive shouldn't be more than $1,000. For the health/mental health POAs most state Attorney General websites actually have basic forms, which is great if you don't have them and you're not planning on paying an attorney for other estate planning services.

A basic will that leaves all assets to the surviving spouse can be as simple as a handwritten (holographic) document, but make sure you know what your state requirements are or the will can be invalidated. In many cases it won't much matter because assets will pass by intestate succession. However, without a will or with an invalidated will you don't get to decide who your executor is and there are significant administrative costs (multiples of what you would have paid an attorney).

For assets that would pass outside of a will - investment accounts with a named beneficiary; POD financial institution accounts; validly formed businesses with TOD clauses; life insurance policies with a named beneficiary; annuities with a named beneficiary; property held in Joint Tenancy; property held as community property, property held with ROS - you reduce the value of the assets that pass under your will, and those assets are not controlled by who you designate in your will. It's really important to know who these assets go to so they align with your wishes. So it's not just a matter of writing up a will or a trust and being done.

With a trust, you still need a will. A trust without a will may see assets pass by intestate succession. If you have a trust, the will is called a 'Pour Over Will' because assets that are not in the trust and don't pass outside the will 'pour over' into the will.

Many people with multiple properties still have the property titled in their personal names, not the name of their company/trust. If real property is managed through a company or trust, but the deed lists the owners as the individuals, that property is not legally an asset of the company or trust. While you're alive that's not really a problem. However, upon death, if the real property is titled in your name then your portion will pass as stated on the deed (i.e., community property, joint tenants), or if not stated then according to will/intestacy, and could present issues. In addition, if there is a mortgage on the property and one owner dies you'll want to know if there is a clause that will accelerate the mortgage or require a refinance.

Guardianship in a will is not a given. It is merely a suggestion to the court. If you're married and living together it's almost a given that the surviving spouse will take the kids for whom the surviving spouse is also the parent. However, if you are not legally married, have children whose other parent is not your spouse, are a non-custodial parent, or any other more complicated scenario it's very important that you not only spell out your wishes but also provide background and supporting materials if the person/people you want as the guardian.

I know this was super long, but while using Last Will software or a templated online service may work for those with very simple estates and family situations, if you have more complex asset distributions it's well worth the investment now to make sure your assets are not depleted because the software/service did not ask you the right questions and you didn't know how to properly check the boxes.

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