Has anyone used software to write a Will?

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BogleDan
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Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by BogleDan » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am

Hi all,
A recent death in the family has made me want to get serious about writing a will to provide for my family and kids. I'm in my mid-30s, so hopefully it won't be needed for a while (!), but if something tragic happened to both my wife and I, for instance, I'd want to have preparations made for the children.

I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. Has anybody had a good experience with any of the programs out there?

Thanks!

beardsworth
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by beardsworth » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:27 am

That search box at the top of the forum page can be your friend. These were some Bogleheads forum results from a simple search combining the terms software and will.

https://www.google.com/search?sitesearc ... tware+will

aristotelian
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by aristotelian » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:33 am

Better than having no will.

WyomingFIRE
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by WyomingFIRE » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:41 am

BogleDan wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am
Hi all,
A recent death in the family has made me want to get serious about writing a will to provide for my family and kids. I'm in my mid-30s, so hopefully it won't be needed for a while (!), but if something tragic happened to both my wife and I, for instance, I'd want to have preparations made for the children.

I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. Has anybody had a good experience with any of the programs out there?

Thanks!
I would hire a lawyer from the beginning, even for the simplest of situations. I wouldn't trust any software package, even if it existed, to be nuanced, up to date, and compliant with my state's current laws. Plus, by the time you purchased the software and learned how to use it, you likely will not have saved much if anything over starting with a lawyer from the get go. And If you take a homespun will to a lawyer, they are likely going to want to rewrite the entire thing anyway. (Note: A lawyer may actually be under a professional duty to effectively rewrite the entire thing because, at the end of the day, they are legally liable for the outcome; at least they are at risk for malpractice. I'm be wary of any lawyer that said: "Sure, I'd be happy to skim it for you.")

Depending on your situation, you may also need or want a power of attorney, health directive and related personal estate planning documents. A will is a good start, but it generally isn't enough, particularly since you have a family. Having a reputable local lawyer draft all of these documents in light of one's personal situation in compliance with the current law of a jurisdiction shouldn't cost all that much. We recently moved from one state to another, and most of our legal documents had to be rewritten -- and it didn't cost all that much.

There are times in life when it pays to hire professional assistance. DIY applies to plumbing, redoing roofs and painting; it doesn't apply to one's legal matters, in my view. And I would hold that opinion even if the person were a lawyer, as we know what they say about a lawyer who represents herself or himself ....
Last edited by WyomingFIRE on Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

tibbitts
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tibbitts » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:46 am

WyomingFIRE wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:41 am
There are times in life when it pays to hire professional assistance. DIY applies to plumbing, redoing roofs and painting; it doesn't apply to one's legal matters, in my view. And I would hold that opinion even if the person were a lawyer, as we know what they say about a lawyer who represents herself or himself ....
I disagree that you're less likely to end up with a disaster if you do roofing or plumbing yourself vs. making a will. You may mean that for you personally that would be the case, but I would say not for the population in general. The only difference is that you will may recognize the roofing or plumbing disaster while you're still alive - and can correct it (or hire someone to correct it.)
Last edited by tibbitts on Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

tibbitts
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tibbitts » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:54 am

BogleDan wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am
Hi all,
A recent death in the family has made me want to get serious about writing a will to provide for my family and kids. I'm in my mid-30s, so hopefully it won't be needed for a while (!), but if something tragic happened to both my wife and I, for instance, I'd want to have preparations made for the children.

I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. Has anybody had a good experience with any of the programs out there?

Thanks!
I made a will myself with Willmaker, but I don't have children. They make the will somewhat more complicated in that the will would typically have to create a trust. I don't have children and might have gone a different route in that case.

I don't agree with having a lawyer to review what you did. It can be okay if you want to do it as an exercise and compare the results, but although I'm not an attorney, I'd guess most attorneys would take more time to review what you did than to start from scratch. So just have the attorney start from scratch and then compare results and ask questions if appropriate.

c1over8
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by c1over8 » Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:07 pm

BogleDan wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am
I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. [Emphasis Added]

If you can even find an estate attorney willing to review your DIY will, it will probably cost just as much as having them draft the will.
aristotelian wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:33 am
Better than having no will.
Not if it contains ambiguous provisions and requires a court order to settle the ambiguities. But, OP will be dead and will never know if this happens so he or she will still think he or she got a good deal.

stan1
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by stan1 » Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:24 pm

Some people have simple needs. My mom is 85. She has credit union CDs, a taxable investing account, and an an IRA with POD and beneficiaries set up properly. Her net worth is about $250K. She does not own a home or a car or even anything of value to anyone other than her. Her two sons are her only heirs. I used Legal Zoom with no regrets. They have an attorney review it as part of the fee.

I would not recommend this for someone with millions of dollars and minor children. Or people with a history of family squabbles. Or if you are disinheriting a child. Or if you have children your spouse doesn't know about. You get the idea.
Last edited by stan1 on Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TravelforFun
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by TravelforFun » Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:34 pm

I use a software for our wills and I update them annually. 90% our assets is in 401K, IRAs, and Roth IRAs and will be distributed to the beneficiaries we've specified so the wills are only there to address our home and personal items. Our situation is not complicated enough to use a lawyer.

TravelforFun

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GerryL
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by GerryL » Sun Oct 07, 2018 2:31 pm

TravelforFun wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:34 pm
I use a software for our wills and I update them annually. 90% our assets is in 401K, IRAs, and Roth IRAs and will be distributed to the beneficiaries we've specified so the wills are only there to address our home and personal items. Our situation is not complicated enough to use a lawyer.

TravelforFun
My will is very simple and more than 75% of my assets are in IRAs, so I have relied on Willmaker. When I get to the point of having to identify agents to help me manage through cognitive decline, I will call on the services of lawyers. In fact, I plan to start sketching out that plan in the coming year.

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willthrill81
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by willthrill81 » Sun Oct 07, 2018 3:44 pm

We used Willmaker when our daughter was born, but we will need to make some updates to it next year. I plan on just having an attorney do it for us. The software was a bit of a hassle, and we'd feel better having someone experienced in our state put everything together.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

JGoneRiding
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by JGoneRiding » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:04 pm

I wanted a very simple will to cover what happens if struck by a bus on the way home from the hospital with our infant and he was only survivor.

I used rocket lawyer. Layout appears identical to what I have seen from legal zoom.

I would NOT do a software and then pay a lawyer to review. Just pay a lawyer if you are going to do that.

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Nate79
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by Nate79 » Mon Oct 08, 2018 12:11 am

We used Willmaker when our baby was born. We will use a lawyer to write new ones in near future but it was fine to at least have something in place.

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by carolinaman » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:21 am

WyomingFIRE wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:41 am
BogleDan wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am
Hi all,
A recent death in the family has made me want to get serious about writing a will to provide for my family and kids. I'm in my mid-30s, so hopefully it won't be needed for a while (!), but if something tragic happened to both my wife and I, for instance, I'd want to have preparations made for the children.

I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. Has anybody had a good experience with any of the programs out there?

Thanks!
I would hire a lawyer from the beginning, even for the simplest of situations. I wouldn't trust any software package, even if it existed, to be nuanced, up to date, and compliant with my state's current laws. Plus, by the time you purchased the software and learned how to use it, you likely will not have saved much if anything over starting with a lawyer from the get go. And If you take a homespun will to a lawyer, they are likely going to want to rewrite the entire thing anyway. (Note: A lawyer may actually be under a professional duty to effectively rewrite the entire thing because, at the end of the day, they are legally liable for the outcome; at least they are at risk for malpractice. I'm be wary of any lawyer that said: "Sure, I'd be happy to skim it for you.")

Depending on your situation, you may also need or want a power of attorney, health directive and related personal estate planning documents. A will is a good start, but it generally isn't enough, particularly since you have a family. Having a reputable local lawyer draft all of these documents in light of one's personal situation in compliance with the current law of a jurisdiction shouldn't cost all that much. We recently moved from one state to another, and most of our legal documents had to be rewritten -- and it didn't cost all that much.

There are times in life when it pays to hire professional assistance. DIY applies to plumbing, redoing roofs and painting; it doesn't apply to one's legal matters, in my view. And I would hold that opinion even if the person were a lawyer, as we know what they say about a lawyer who represents herself or himself ....
+1. Well stated. As a classic DIYer, I totally agree. One other thing. DIY estate documents such as wills and POAs are often not accepted by others whereas the same documents by attorneys are much more readily accepted.

Onion
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by Onion » Mon Oct 08, 2018 11:35 am

Nate79 wrote:
Mon Oct 08, 2018 12:11 am
We used Willmaker when our baby was born. We will use a lawyer to write new ones in near future but it was fine to at least have something in place.
This is the same for us.

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lthenderson
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by lthenderson » Mon Oct 08, 2018 12:07 pm

BogleDan wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am
I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. Has anybody had a good experience with any of the programs out there?
Assuming you find a lawyer to review it, what if he suggests changes? Now you've paid the first lawyer fee, have to go home and make the changes yourself since you are the one that paid for the software. Now you have another lawyer fee to review it to make sure it meets their criteria? I would think it would be much less expensive to just have the lawyer do it to start with.

Don't confuse prices of setting up complicated trusts through an estate attorney with having them do a simple will. We had a complete package with will, medical directives, etc drawn up by a lawyer for about $300. They also keep a copy of it for the rest of my life should the one in my house get destroyed.

State laws are constantly changing. Why would I trust my kid's future on some software manufacturer headquartered clear across the country to have my best interest in mind when drafting up a will? I wouldn't.

MrMojoRisin
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by MrMojoRisin » Sat Feb 02, 2019 9:15 pm

I am executor and POA for my mother and stepfather. Both have living trusts. His was a bit more complicated due to some dynamics in his family and how his finances were arranged.

One item I have an issue with that I think the attorney that wrote up the documents should have caught a conflict between the will and the trust.

My SP has a son who has taken financial advantage of him time and again. Credit card fraud, etc. In his will he clearly outlines his desire that his son is to receive nothing from his estate. In his living trust though he gives him a sum of money. The trust was based on some old legal work he had done. I believe the attorney should have caught the conflict and asked my SF what his wishes were. I know my SF dictated the will to the attorney thinking it would be the final word on everything. My SF now has dementia and the will and trust cannot be altered. In his clear moments he tells me to make certain his son gets nothing of his estate. I just tell him it is all lined out in the will and trust.

That said my wife and I just did our will using 2018 Quicken Willmaker that we checked out free from our local library. Software and every thing is included. (Libraries buy special editions of certain product and they come with different licensing rights)

Our estate is simple and modest. Wife and I were never married previously and had no kids prior to our marriage. We do not own a business and all are investments are in ROTH and tIRA's where you claim your first and second beneficiaries. In all cases we have our spouse as first and 50/50 split between our twins after that.

The only flaw I found is that my wife and I have separate wills that are mirror images of each other. In one part of my will I forgive a debt to one child that was used for his education. There was no way to edit it so that the debt would be forgiven only if my wife and I died at the same time. We needed more of a joint will process.

The Quicken software told us of some peculiarities of state (Oklahoma) that we are to be aware of.
So our total out of pocket will be the cost of paper, ink and a notary public.

Quicken does provide a pushbutton link in the software that give you a list of lawyers in your area that work with them.

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tadamsmar
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tadamsmar » Sat Feb 02, 2019 9:48 pm

BogleDan wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am
Hi all,
A recent death in the family has made me want to get serious about writing a will to provide for my family and kids. I'm in my mid-30s, so hopefully it won't be needed for a while (!), but if something tragic happened to both my wife and I, for instance, I'd want to have preparations made for the children.

I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. Has anybody had a good experience with any of the programs out there?

Thanks!
If you are going to have a lawyer review it, then I am not sure you are saving by using willmaker software. The lawyer will already have a template that they have reviewed, so not sure how it could be any less expensive for them to review a different template that they are not familiar with.

I did one will with software and later one with a lawyer. Both are simple fill-in-the-blanks jobs.

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tadamsmar
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tadamsmar » Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:02 pm

You already have a will that you can find quickly with Google. It's called the intestate laws of your state.

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by bsteiner » Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:07 pm

BogleDan wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:19 am
...
I'd love to find some software to help me through the process, with the intention of having a lawyer review it once it is mostly complete. Has anybody had a good experience with any of the programs out there?
We use Word.

A nationally prominent trusts and estates lawyer, now retired, tried LegalZoom (to see what it was like, not to actually sign the Will he prepared using it). He said that it was pretty good, though it didn't offer all of the choices he would have wanted.

It would probably cost more to have a trusts and estates lawyer review your draft and revise it or help you revise it than it would to have him/her prepare a Will in the first instance.

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by gd » Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:41 am

A better question: Has anyone seen the outcome of a software-produced Will?

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tadamsmar
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tadamsmar » Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:04 am

For my first will, I used willmaker software and had a couple next door sign as witnesses. Their signatures were not notarized so the will was not self-proving. They would have had to go to the county courthouse in the event of my death and swear to the county clerk that they witnessed the will.

The will was simple. If my wife and I died then a judge would end up choosing a conservator for my minor children. It did not put any recommendation to the judge on that in the simple will.

I later did a will using a lawyer. My kids were grown. But there is an unlikely possibility that their minor kids would inherit and a judge would have to choose a conservator.

In my case, I really needed a will to cover step-children. The intestate laws of my state are quite different from the directives in my will, but for many people, the intestate laws are closer. But in our state, the intestate laws give part of the estate to the kids even if the spouse survives and maybe most people want to spouse to inherit everything.

Note that stuff that has a named or default beneficiary that is not your estate go directly to the beneficiary. The will only covers the estate.

It is worthwhile to have named beneficiaries (primary and secondary) on your IRAs and 401Ks for tax avoidance in some circumstances. It can be costly for an IRA to go to an estate but, apparently, there have been some IRS rulings in specific cases that provided better tax treatment based on the will.

You also need POAs, Healthcare POAs, and Advanced Directives.

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lthenderson
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by lthenderson » Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:26 am

gd wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:41 am
A better question: Has anyone seen the outcome of a software-produced Will?
Here's a pretty good article on some of the pitfalls of software produced wills. The one that really scares me is how well a software produced will can stand up to a savvy lawyer who is suing my estate on behalf of a disgruntled relative.

https://www.forbes.com/2010/09/07/do-it ... 9bf8935c37

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by VictoriaF » Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:12 am

lthenderson wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:26 am
gd wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:41 am
A better question: Has anyone seen the outcome of a software-produced Will?
Here's a pretty good article on some of the pitfalls of software produced wills. The one that really scares me is how well a software produced will can stand up to a savvy lawyer who is suing my estate on behalf of a disgruntled relative.

https://www.forbes.com/2010/09/07/do-it ... 9bf8935c37
The article is over 8 years old. If there were a lot of horror stories, we would have heard them.

Lawyers are as likely to make mistakes as lay people. A motivated and careful creator of his or her will can avoid all mistakes mentioned in the article. My analogy is tax preparation: a motivated and careful tax self-preparer can do better and cheaper than a professional.

Victoria
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by Nutmeg » Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:50 am

As a retired lawyer who didn’t practice in the estate planning area, I paid an attorney who did to prepare my estate planning documents every time my spouse and I moved to a new state, and once after the first child turned 18. Even after the children were over 18, I believed it was worth the cost to have an expert prepare estate planning documents. I learned something every time we changed the will. I prepare our taxes using software, but estate planning is much more complicated than tax return preparation.

Our wills named a trustee who was adept in financial matters for the trust we established in the will for our minor children. We wanted to choose different people to handle the day-to-day decisions regarding raising the children.

My spouse and I wanted the guardians to live in our state and share our values. We also wanted to avoid allowing a certain person to have anything to do with our children, so it was crucial that we clearly name other people as guardians.

In one state, our attorney advised against putting guardianship requests in the will. She explained that, in that state, the court would have to approve the guardians anyway, and it is easier to change a separate document when needed than to redo the will if our preferred guardians changed. In fact, our preferred guardians did change several times (once when the guardians divorced each other), and we easily changed my guardian request memo. Our memo was a one-page memo stating the name and contact information of the people we wished to serve as the guardians of our children in the event both of us died. Both my spouse and I signed it, but we didn’t have it notarized.

Whether or not one decides to hire an attorney, it is possible to get started on estate planning immediately by compiling a list of assets, writing down the names of the preferred guardians, and telling a trusted relative where that information is.

2015
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by 2015 » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:01 pm

I used Legalzoom a few years ago to create my trust and will use it again this year to update the trust due to a change in assets. Contrary to seemingly ongoing popular misconceptions, you are not left on your own with LZ. I had access to 3 of their attorneys with LZ (could have had as many as I wanted but didn't need). I also had access to their attorneys for a year after the trust was created for consultation on a wide range of topics as part of the package. I used them during the following year for a legal check up. The attorney who did the check up said I was in good shape and was using terms he had heard never lay persons use during his years of consultations so I have no concerns about using LZ once again to update the trust.

MrMojoRisin
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by MrMojoRisin » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:02 pm

gd wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:41 am
A better question: Has anyone seen the outcome of a software-produced Will?
Wife and I just finished our first draft of our wills using Quicken Willmaker 2018 we got from our local library at no charge. Had the software and everything and we registered with Quicken (Nolo) online and received offers of other programs. To recap, wife and I have no children by others, we own our house and are debt free. We own no businesses and all our investments have documents that name our beneficiaries. We are not complicated.

When you install WillMaker to your drive it does an update to the latest version of 2018, but not an upgrade to 2019. I does tell you what the update to 2019 will add to the program, state by state. If you see something that applies to your state then you need to get the later version or wait till the library get a new edition.

There is also a nice FAQ section. In this section they explain why a notarized affidavit is of value, when a trust is a better option than a will, disheartening children, etc.

They Software also comes with Durable Power of Attorney forms, Medical Directive forms, final arrangement forms and letters to caretakers form.

I do not have a legal background but am very familiar with the two wills and trusts that I am administrator for. There is some language in the W&T that I administer that I have doubted the wisdom of. On of these issues is in the FAQ section of the software and it is as I suspected, it would not stand legal challenge.

If you have step children this software would not be of value and it states so in the FAQ, referring you to their Trust software for this matter.

If you have any specific questions I will try to answer them, just send me a PM to know you have replied to this message or just PM me the question.

JGoneRiding
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by JGoneRiding » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:04 pm

I used software yes. But it's my understanding if you are going to have a lawyer "review" it's cheaper to just let them write it.

Wills do not need to be complicated.

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by JGoneRiding » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:13 pm

stan1 wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:24 pm
Some people have simple needs. My mom is 85. She has credit union CDs, a taxable investing account, and an an IRA with POD and beneficiaries set up properly. Her net worth is about $250K. She does not own a home or a car or even anything of value to anyone other than her. Her two sons are her only heirs. I used Legal Zoom with no regrets. They have an attorney review it as part of the fee.

I would not recommend this for someone with millions of dollars and minor children. Or people with a history of family squabbles. Or if you are disinheriting a child. Or if you have children your spouse doesn't know about. You get the idea.
I agree. My grandmother has wasted probably 10s of 1000s of dollars on lawyer wills and changes over the years. She will be 99 in March. She will die with nothing. Her wills will not ever be probated or see the light of day.

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:29 pm

Eh, for $1,500 We used a professional. The cost was such a tiny percentage of our estate, it was laughable.

I see no reason to eschew professional services, given our complex financial existences today.

It could be argued those who do their own wills will never see a problem with what they have created. Their heirs might not have the ability to say the same.

Perhaps even with our estate planning, our heirs might have problems, but at the least, we tried.

Money well spent for peace of mind. Even better, freedom from wife's haranguing me about lack of same. :oops:

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven then I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by PinotGris » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:58 pm

TravelforFun wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:34 pm
I use a software for our wills and I update them annually. 90% our assets is in 401K, IRAs, and Roth IRAs and will be distributed to the beneficiaries we've specified so the wills are only there to address our home and personal items. Our situation is not complicated enough to use a lawyer.

TravelforFun
What do you do to update? Do you update the software? But a new software and do a new will from scratch?
We did our’s wit Willmaker software. I have been thinking we need to update it plus our son is getting married and we may need to make some changes.

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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by Sandtrap » Sun Feb 03, 2019 2:14 pm

Will and Trust software is useful to put all of your post-life in one place, with clarity and specificity.
Then, take that to legal counsel so you don't waste time and money.
It's a starting ground to have further consultations.
In this way you will get what you want, what works legally, and get professional experienced advice that you would not get on the software alone.
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bsteiner
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by bsteiner » Sun Feb 03, 2019 2:35 pm

JGoneRiding wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:04 pm
I used software yes. But it's my understanding if you are going to have a lawyer "review" it's cheaper to just let them write it.
...
It would cost much more to review and revise someone's draft than to prepare a Will in the first instance.

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munemaker
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by munemaker » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:03 pm

Most wills are not complicated.

We wrote our wills using Nolo WillMaker Plus which you can either buy or borrow at many public libraries (the program disk is in the back of the book). It works fine.

I am surprised that so many on here manage multi million dollar financial assets themselves but are uncomfortable with using software to prepare a simple will.

If you have a special situation...a trust, special needs child, contentious heirs, or whatever, then yes, I would definitely consult a lawyer.

But if your assets consist of a home and a bunch of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a home and you want to leave them to your spouse as primary beneficiary and children as secondary beneficiaries, then, in my opinion, software works just fine.

Do your heirs a favor and specify beneficiaries for your financial assets (transfer on death) where the institution allows it. Most do.

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bengal22
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by bengal22 » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:05 pm

I used the will my FIL used successfully and changed the names. Our friends signed as witnesses. We have two adult children and have set up most assets as kids as beneficiaries. People view estate planning as some magical thing that requires expensive consultants to review and bless. Make sure you really need high priced legal help before you pay one for 3-5 pages of standard verbage.
"Earn All You Can; Give All You Can; Save All You Can." .... John Wesley

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munemaker
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by munemaker » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:20 pm

gd wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:41 am
A better question: Has anyone seen the outcome of a software-produced Will?
I don't know what you think is going to happen.

I have taken two estates through probate in PA (not software generated wills). The executor takes the original will to the Register of Wills/Orphans Court at the county courthouse. They review it and open an estate for the executor. The executor executes the instructions in the will and in PA, files the final income tax return and the state inheritance tax return. There are some forms for the executor to fill out during the process. It is not all the complicated but it is time consuming. For me, one of the deceased was a retired government employee, and dealing the the federal bureaucracy was especially frustrating.

I could see a problem if the will was not properly signed and notarized, or possibly if an heir would challenge the will in court. In the cases I was involved with, the heirs were not interested in the details, just "When am I going to get the money." The probate process can take a long time in PA.

It is just my nature that I hate paying people a lot of money for simple things I can do myself.

diy60
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by diy60 » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:28 pm

I hired an attorney to prepare a will, durable POA, living will, health care POA, and organ donor modification. I think I paid somewhere around $600, money well spent IMHO.

doneat53
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by doneat53 » Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:47 pm

IMHO the utility of having a full scale will depends somewhat on the state or distribution of your assets.

If most of your wealth is in retirement and brokerage accounts then hiring a lawyer to draw up a will is a waste of time and money. If you want a minimalist approach that you can complete in the next hour and save you some worry and sleep I would at a minimum make sure the beneficiaries on your accounts are set the way you want them. Often people leave these blank when they set up the account and then forget to populate them as the years go on and kids arrive etc. As I understand it these designations supersede any will statements as well.

On the other hand if your wealth is in property, cars, household items, jewelry, house/s, then having a will makes a lot of sense. Its just that especially with young people (and by young I include the original poster at age 30) it makes the most sense to set beneficiaries and then put the time and effort into a will when kids come along, or when houses are acquired etc. Otherwise you'll be paying the lawyer to amend the will every 5-10 years as well.

Granted this leaves open the possibility that some of your possessions will go to probate and be distributed perhaps differently than you intended but as long as I have the majority of wealth covered I'm ok with that.

bsteiner
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by bsteiner » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:26 pm

munemaker wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:03 pm
Most wills are not complicated.

We wrote our wills using Nolo WillMaker Plus which you can either buy or borrow at many public libraries (the program disk is in the back of the book). It works fine.

I am surprised that so many on here manage multi million dollar financial assets themselves but are uncomfortable with using software to prepare a simple will.

If you have a special situation...a trust, special needs child, contentious heirs, or whatever, then yes, I would definitely consult a lawyer.

But if your assets consist of a home and a bunch of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a home and you want to leave them to your spouse as primary beneficiary and children as secondary beneficiaries, then, in my opinion, software works just fine.

Do your heirs a favor and specify beneficiaries for your financial assets (transfer on death) where the institution allows it. Most do.
For most people a Will that leaves your estate to your spouse, or if none then to your children, may be sufficient.

But if your "bunch of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a home" is "multi million dollar financial assets" then it may not be sufficient. In that case, you may want to provide for your children in trust rather than outright, to keep their inheritances out of their estates, and to protect their inheritances from their creditors and spouses, and Medicaid.
Broken Man 1999 wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:29 pm
Eh, for $1,500 We used a professional. The cost was such a tiny percentage of our estate, it was laughable.

I see no reason to eschew professional services, given our complex financial existences today.

It could be argued those who do their own wills will never see a problem with what they have created. Their heirs might not have the ability to say the same.

Perhaps even with our estate planning, our heirs might have problems, but at the least, we tried.

Money well spent for peace of mind. Even better, freedom from wife's haranguing me about lack of same. :oops:
...
diy60 wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 3:28 pm
I hired an attorney to prepare a will, durable POA, living will, health care POA, and organ donor modification. I think I paid somewhere around $600, money well spent IMHO.
In these cases, LegalZoom might be just as good, or perhaps better. The time involved in meeting with the lawyer to go over your situation and to decide what your Will is going to say would likely be somewhere between these two figures, before doing any drafting.

In addition to the Wills and disability documents, there's also some work to prepare the riders to the beneficiary designations for the life insurance and retirement benefits to coordinate them with the Wills.

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tadamsmar
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tadamsmar » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:28 pm

lthenderson wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:26 am
gd wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:41 am
A better question: Has anyone seen the outcome of a software-produced Will?
Here's a pretty good article on some of the pitfalls of software produced wills. The one that really scares me is how well a software produced will can stand up to a savvy lawyer who is suing my estate on behalf of a disgruntled relative.

https://www.forbes.com/2010/09/07/do-it ... 9bf8935c37
One of the pitfalls listed is the software does not tell you that accounts with beneficiaries bypass a will.

But I went to a lawyer to get a will and the lawyer never told me that either.

So that write up on pitfalls has some pitfalls.

HIinvestor
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by HIinvestor » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:37 pm

My local bank gave me names of 2-3 local attorneys who would draw up an estate plan for me and my H for $1000. I asked around and got a referral from a loved one who is corp counsel for a bank and used that attorney to help us draw up everything. He came to our house and he helped walk us through various scenarios and come up with a plan that makes sense for us and our two >21 year old kids. As a bonus, he helped us clear the title of properties we hold without extra charge. He was $3000 or so, IIRC.

We will likely be contacting him in the near future about revisiting these documents, now that the “kids” are 29/31. We will likely also try to untangle a jointly held property that H and BIL co-own.

Depending on your assets, there are several things that DIU can be penny-wise, pound-foolish. This can easily be one if them.

6Pack
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by 6Pack » Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:44 pm

aristotelian wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:33 am
Better than having no will.
Unless the software doesn’t provide for a state nuance regarding execution. When a will isn’t executed in accordance with state law, then your estate will be declared intestate, as you didn’t die with a valid will. Then your will is useless and state laws of intestacy apply.

With that being said, you usually need two witnesses and possibly a notary. The notary is required for self-proving wills in some states so the witnesses don’t have to testify that they saw the deceased witness the will. A self-proving will is preferred.

One issue is that if you have bad documents/execution, it provides a false sense of security and once someone realizes the documents are not in order, it’s too late to make any changes.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a will written with software and was executed improperly. The software itself may not be bad, but you need to know your state’s requirements for proper execution.

Now powers of attorney are completely different because most states adopted some sort of uniform power of attorney law. From what I’ve seen, most DIY methods of powers of attorney do not comply with state law.

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munemaker
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by munemaker » Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:13 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:26 pm

But if your "bunch of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a home" is "multi million dollar financial assets" then it may not be sufficient. In that case, you may want to provide for your children in trust rather than outright, to keep their inheritances out of their estates, and to protect their inheritances from their creditors and spouses, and Medicaid.
Personally we are not concerned about whether the kids' inheritances are in or out of their estates, not concerned about their creditors or spouses, and not concerned about Medicaid. We understand others might be, but these things do not matter to us.

michaelingp
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by michaelingp » Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:25 pm

I think most married people with joint accounts would be surprised how little would be distributed according to their will. This can be true even for non-married people. I remember when my mother died, and all my siblings got all excited about the will and who would be the executor, only to find out that the only assets that went through the will were her furniture and stuff (which they then proceeded to fight over like cats). Her will was drawn up by a lawyer which was probably a waste of money given the eventual size of her estate. You can find all kinds of scare stories about dying without a will, but I actually think for a lot of people it would be no big deal.

Personally, I think the antipathy against software-produced wills is a little odd. Who do you think writes and evaluates the wills produced by the software? Lawyers! I've used Nolo Willmaker, and it's very explicit about who should not use the software, people who live in certain states, people in certain situations, etc. And it's very explicit about how to have the will witnessed for each state. If you go to a lawyer for your will, don't you think he/she has a collection of Word file wills that he/she modifies for your situation?

tibbitts
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tibbitts » Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:43 pm

michaelingp wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:25 pm
I think most married people with joint accounts would be surprised how little would be distributed according to their will. This can be true even for non-married people. I remember when my mother died, and all my siblings got all excited about the will and who would be the executor, only to find out that the only assets that went through the will were her furniture and stuff (which they then proceeded to fight over like cats). Her will was drawn up by a lawyer which was probably a waste of money given the eventual size of her estate. You can find all kinds of scare stories about dying without a will, but I actually think for a lot of people it would be no big deal.

Personally, I think the antipathy against software-produced wills is a little odd. Who do you think writes and evaluates the wills produced by the software? Lawyers! I've used Nolo Willmaker, and it's very explicit about who should not use the software, people who live in certain states, people in certain situations, etc. And it's very explicit about how to have the will witnessed for each state. If you go to a lawyer for your will, don't you think he/she has a collection of Word file wills that he/she modifies for your situation?
It is ironic that on a forum where people tell you you're basically wasting money if you don't repair your own car, do your own taxes, build your own house, and of course do your own investing, wills seem to be curious off-limits for d-i-y. I did mine (will and related documents) using Willmaker software, and a lawyer who looked at it said it was okay, but it's very simple. With more complexity I could definitely see using a lawyer, just like I would for other complicated services.

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munemaker
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by munemaker » Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:20 pm

tibbitts wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:43 pm
michaelingp wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:25 pm
Personally, I think the antipathy against software-produced wills is a little odd. Who do you think writes and evaluates the wills produced by the software? Lawyers!
It is ironic that on a forum where people tell you you're basically wasting money if you don't repair your own car, do your own taxes, build your own house, and of course do your own investing, wills seem to be curious off-limits for d-i-y.
I have observed the same thing every time this subject comes up and am also puzzled.

wootwoot
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by wootwoot » Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:36 pm

munemaker wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:20 pm
tibbitts wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:43 pm
michaelingp wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:25 pm
Personally, I think the antipathy against software-produced wills is a little odd. Who do you think writes and evaluates the wills produced by the software? Lawyers!
It is ironic that on a forum where people tell you you're basically wasting money if you don't repair your own car, do your own taxes, build your own house, and of course do your own investing, wills seem to be curious off-limits for d-i-y.
I have observed the same thing every time this subject comes up and am also puzzled.
Confused here as well. The fear on these threads is exaggerated and irrational for someone needing a simple will.

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tadamsmar
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tadamsmar » Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:48 am

munemaker wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:13 pm
bsteiner wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:26 pm

But if your "bunch of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a home" is "multi million dollar financial assets" then it may not be sufficient. In that case, you may want to provide for your children in trust rather than outright, to keep their inheritances out of their estates, and to protect their inheritances from their creditors and spouses, and Medicaid.
Personally we are not concerned about whether the kids' inheritances are in or out of their estates, not concerned about their creditors or spouses, and not concerned about Medicaid. We understand others might be, but these things do not matter to us.
Are you aware of the following?:

"For nonspouse IRA heirs, being named on the form is critical because that designation allows them to stretch out distributions from the account over their own lifetimes. If you don’t list any beneficiaries or name your estate, the IRA can’t be stretched, and the tax shelter is lost."

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retir ... d-ira.html

This can be a valuable tax shelter for your kids in they inherit an IRA outside of the estate.

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munemaker
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by munemaker » Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:06 am

tadamsmar wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:48 am
munemaker wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:13 pm
bsteiner wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:26 pm

But if your "bunch of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a home" is "multi million dollar financial assets" then it may not be sufficient. In that case, you may want to provide for your children in trust rather than outright, to keep their inheritances out of their estates, and to protect their inheritances from their creditors and spouses, and Medicaid.
Personally we are not concerned about whether the kids' inheritances are in or out of their estates, not concerned about their creditors or spouses, and not concerned about Medicaid. We understand others might be, but these things do not matter to us.
Are you aware of the following?:

"For nonspouse IRA heirs, being named on the form is critical because that designation allows them to stretch out distributions from the account over their own lifetimes. If you don’t list any beneficiaries or name your estate, the IRA can’t be stretched, and the tax shelter is lost."

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retir ... d-ira.html

This can be a valuable tax shelter for your kids in they inherit an IRA outside of the estate.
Our IRAs, bank accounts and brokerage accounts have our (adult) children named as secondary beneficiaries, with spouse being primary. The will does not apply to accounts with named beneficiaries. I think that is what you are suggesting, right?

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tadamsmar
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Re: Has anyone used software to write a Will?

Post by tadamsmar » Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:17 am

munemaker wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:06 am
tadamsmar wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 5:48 am
munemaker wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:13 pm
bsteiner wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:26 pm

But if your "bunch of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and a home" is "multi million dollar financial assets" then it may not be sufficient. In that case, you may want to provide for your children in trust rather than outright, to keep their inheritances out of their estates, and to protect their inheritances from their creditors and spouses, and Medicaid.
Personally we are not concerned about whether the kids' inheritances are in or out of their estates, not concerned about their creditors or spouses, and not concerned about Medicaid. We understand others might be, but these things do not matter to us.
Are you aware of the following?:

"For nonspouse IRA heirs, being named on the form is critical because that designation allows them to stretch out distributions from the account over their own lifetimes. If you don’t list any beneficiaries or name your estate, the IRA can’t be stretched, and the tax shelter is lost."

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retir ... d-ira.html

This can be a valuable tax shelter for your kids in they inherit an IRA outside of the estate.
Our IRAs, bank accounts and brokerage accounts have our (adult) children named as secondary beneficiaries, with spouse being primary. The will does not apply to accounts with named beneficiaries. I think that is what you are suggesting, right?
I was suggesting that this is one area where one should be concerned about whether inheritances are in or out of the estate.

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