Will and trust....software or attorney?

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fittan
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Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by fittan »

Hi fellow BH,
I have done my research and is about to create a will and trust. For trust, I plan to setup a "revocable living trust" meaning one that is valid when I am still alive and that I have to do my "homework" of transferring assets into it. I have all my "ducks" ready (e.g. guardian, trustee, assets list) and is ready to just do it (I know I should have done this many years ago).

I have 2 questions:

1) Should I use software like Quicken WillMaker or use an attorney (who specializes with estate planning)? Obviously one is $80 vs $2000 (ballpark).

2) If I use WillMaker, how does the trust become "official" or legal? After I execute it, do I file it with county clerk or some government agency?

Thanks.
BogleMelon
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by BogleMelon »

I can not answer anything with trusts or software vs attorney.
But here is my experience. My situation is far simple, only married with no kids. So I chose to do a will and used Willmaker. The software is pretty awesome and straight forward (It only doesn't work in Louisiana for legal reasons). It will guide you on every single detail. You can just sign the will and leave it at the executor, or notarize it to make his life more simple. I chose to just sign it and let him deal with complications, that is what friends for anyways! :twisted:
I believe also for a will to be valid depends on each state laws, so YMMV
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gtd98765
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by gtd98765 »

put in willmaker in the search box at the top right and you will find many threads on the forum over the last year or two. This is a very controversial issue here.
BradJ
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by BradJ »

Just wrote the $1500 check to my lawyer for a complete trust and will. My situation was very simple, middle class people raising two kids....that's it. Since I am frugal by nature, it's hard for me to recommend the route I took, but if you are practical and want that "check box" item off your list, just take the plunge and go visit a lawyer. If you just want a Will, try Legal Zoom.
ZLMARK
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by ZLMARK »

Here's one for you https://iwillandtrust.com/ . Haven't used it but think I might. They say gets reviewed by licensed attorney.
Topic Author
fittan
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by fittan »

BradJ wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:38 pm Just wrote the $1500 check to my lawyer for a complete trust and will. My situation was very simple, middle class people raising two kids....that's it. Since I am frugal by nature, it's hard for me to recommend the route I took, but if you are practical and want that "check box" item off your list, just take the plunge and go visit a lawyer. If you just want a Will, try Legal Zoom.
Thanks. The quote I got ranges from $1800 to $2500. Regarding the trust, do you have to "move" your assets into them? And if so, does your attorney do that for the $1500 fee you mentioned?
bsteiner
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by bsteiner »

fittan wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:15 pm Hi fellow BH,
I have done my research and is about to create a will and trust. For trust, I plan to setup a "revocable living trust" meaning one that is valid when I am still alive and that I have to do my "homework" of transferring assets into it. I have all my "ducks" ready (e.g. guardian, trustee, assets list) and is ready to just do it (I know I should have done this many years ago).

I have 2 questions:

1) Should I use software like Quicken WillMaker or use an attorney (who specializes with estate planning)? Obviously one is $80 vs $2000 (ballpark).

2) If I use WillMaker, how does the trust become "official" or legal? After I execute it, do I file it with county clerk or some government agency?
Do you know that a revocable trust is appropriate for you? It's appropriate in some cases and in some states, but not for most people in most states.

1. A nationally prominent trusts and estates lawyer, now retired, did a Will for himself on LegalZoom as a test (meaning that he didn't actually sign it).
He said that it was pretty good, though it didn't allow all the choices he wants. I don't know the lawyer you're considering, but it wouldn't surprise me if LegalZoom did a better job than a lawyer at $2,000, though it would depend on whether you selected the most appropriate options in LegalZoom.

2. That's something you would ask your lawyer. Some portion of the legal fee is for the time spent in answering whatever questions you might have.
senex
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by senex »

I've done a decent bit of research as a layman, including reading a law textbook and mining old Bogleheads threads.

Software can be fine & economical for simple situations, but it's hard to know if your situation is "simple," due to the multiplicity of factors (family structure & dynamics, state of residence, personal balance sheet, goals, constraints, health, ever-changing laws, etc). A good attorney will find the best solution for you personally, albeit at a higher cost. He'll also provide ongoing support, document storage, etc.

You have the perennial problem of finding/knowing who is a good attorney (not everyone can hire bsteiner), which can be a significant challenge. By definition, half of attorneys are worse than median. A bad attorney may be worse than a mass-market software package.


As an extreme example, if you're married, never been divorced, no kids, few assets, no complicating items, you live in a certain state, and you want all to go to your spouse, and you're happy with the contingencies in state law, then some references say you don't need a will at all -- just title your accounts as joint and let the intestacy laws take care of the rest. I have seen this work smoothly in practice.

At the other extreme, if you have lots of assets, complicated business dealings, children from prior marriages, other confounding factors -- an attorney seems very prudent.

The challenge is knowing where you inhabit that spectrum. Sadly, I haven't found any Bogle-like book to help you sort it our yourself.
Last edited by senex on Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
increment
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by increment »

fittan wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:55 pm Regarding the trust, do you have to "move" your assets into them? And if so, does your attorney do that for the $1500 fee you mentioned?
Yes, assets need to be moved. (How else will your successor trustee establish that the trust owns anything?)

In the case of my father's trust, the attorney prepared and submitted paperwork to change the title on real estate. Changing the title on various accounts was not included: the banks and brokerages treated that like establishing a new account, and the owner needs to do that directly.
MidMNtom
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by MidMNtom »

I am not an attorney, but spent 30 yrs in the legal industry. IF...you determine you need a trust, then an attorney is the only way to go.
Please dont confuse price with cost. The cost of an attorney that is familiar with trust issues in your state is priceless and a great value.

If you need a trust that is.
Best, tom
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Gray
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by Gray »

I used Legal Zoom for my mother in law for durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and a will. For my wife. It worked just fine. No need to waste money on an attorney. It has a simple, TurboTax like interface.

Her house was sold and all of her assets bypassed probate when she died but we filed the registered will. No issues at all.

The more money and assets you have, and the more complex your situation, then an attorney is advisable. Preferably one specialized in estate/tax planning/law.
psy1
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by psy1 »

We went with an attorney. Worth the peace of mind that a human you know will help out your heirs when the time comes.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by Sandtrap »

Seek highly qualified legal counsel.
For substantial wealth or complex family dynamics, etc.
Definitely seek legal counsel.
j
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pdavi21
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by pdavi21 »

What's wrong with handwritten?
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by 6Pack »

Part of the value of hiring an attorney is determining whether a will or a trust is appropriate. Otherwise, it's like going to the doctor and saying "I know I have ____ and I need you to prescribe me ____ to fix it."
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by carolinaman »

fittan wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:15 pm Hi fellow BH,
I have done my research and is about to create a will and trust. For trust, I plan to setup a "revocable living trust" meaning one that is valid when I am still alive and that I have to do my "homework" of transferring assets into it. I have all my "ducks" ready (e.g. guardian, trustee, assets list) and is ready to just do it (I know I should have done this many years ago).

I have 2 questions:

1) Should I use software like Quicken WillMaker or use an attorney (who specializes with estate planning)? Obviously one is $80 vs $2000 (ballpark).

2) If I use WillMaker, how does the trust become "official" or legal? After I execute it, do I file it with county clerk or some government agency?

Thanks.
There is an old saying that answers are easy but questions are hard. Even though you have done research and acquired knowledge about estates, you do not know what you do not know. A good estate attorney may ask a few questions that you have not considered and that can make a big difference in how this gets handled. Estate law is complicated and state specific. Yes, you can save some money by DIY, but the consequences of mistakes can be huge. I recommend a good estate attorney. Get some recommendations from friends and vet them to make sure you get a good one.
skinsfan
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by skinsfan »

I went through this somewhat recently. As others have said, one of the benefits of using an attorney was to help me understand what was best for my family. I went in thinking that I wanted to set up a will and living trust. Our lawyer helped us understand that a living trust really wasn't necessary for our situation.

The lawyer we used was a referral from two other lawyer friends who I really trust. He charged a flat fee of $2000 (HCOL area). This allowed us to ask as many questions as we wanted (and continue to ask moving forward) without worrying about racking up hourly fees. Overall, I'm really happy that we went with a lawyer over software, but probably the most important factor is finding a good lawyer.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by patelbhavesh »

If your company has "legal assistance plans " like ARAG , then for about $240 you get access to an attorney to make a will + trust + guardianship + healtcare directives all done.In the last couple of years , pretty much all legal assistance plans have offered this service as part of basic coverage.Needless to say if your case is complex you will have to pay extra.

Do not forget to "fund" the trust.Most people create the trust but do not fund it making it useless.
We just created a trust thru vanguard.Note for me there was lot of confusion on vanguards site between trust fund services and trust fund account.Trust fund account is free.
rich126
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by rich126 »

Sandtrap wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 10:26 pm Seek highly qualified legal counsel.
For substantial wealth or complex family dynamics, etc.
Definitely seek legal counsel.
j
Totally agree. The whole point of a trust or will is to select where you want your money to go upon your death. The last thing you need is use something on the web to determine that, unless you don't really care.
BradJ
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by BradJ »

fittan wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:55 pm
BradJ wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:38 pm Just wrote the $1500 check to my lawyer for a complete trust and will. My situation was very simple, middle class people raising two kids....that's it. Since I am frugal by nature, it's hard for me to recommend the route I took, but if you are practical and want that "check box" item off your list, just take the plunge and go visit a lawyer. If you just want a Will, try Legal Zoom.
Thanks. The quote I got ranges from $1800 to $2500. Regarding the trust, do you have to "move" your assets into them? And if so, does your attorney do that for the $1500 fee you mentioned?
Not sure if it cost extra to move the assets under the will, but will know in about two weeks. Something has to be in your trust to “fund it”, otherwise it’s an expensive empty shell.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by patelbhavesh »

"Thanks. The quote I got ranges from $1800 to $2500. Regarding the trust, do you have to "move" your assets into them? And if so, does your attorney do that for the $1500 fee you mentioned?"
Depending on your location it is very unlikely they will do this for you unless you had an explicit agreement with them before hand.
Basically , you need to move your house title, brokerage accounts[ at vanguard you create a new trust fund account] to the trust.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by 6Pack »

patelbhavesh wrote: Sat Mar 09, 2019 7:41 pm "Thanks. The quote I got ranges from $1800 to $2500. Regarding the trust, do you have to "move" your assets into them? And if so, does your attorney do that for the $1500 fee you mentioned?"
Depending on your location it is very unlikely they will do this for you unless you had an explicit agreement with them before hand.
Basically , you need to move your house title, brokerage accounts[ at vanguard you create a new trust fund account] to the trust.
The attorney will likely include a deed to put your house into the trust, but you’ll need to specifically ask about other assets. Some attorneys leave it to the client to complete a schedule to list the trust’s assets. The attorney should also include obtaining an EIN/TIN from the IRS for the trust.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by patelbhavesh »

"The attorney should also include obtaining an EIN/TIN from the IRS for the trust."
This is optional not compulsory and most people with simple trusts can get away by having the joint account of the trust account as one of the spouses SSN and it becomes a pass-through.
If for any reason[high net worth or complex trust] you need EIN/TIN then you already need an attorney and potentially a CPA.
JBTX
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by JBTX »

For something as important as a will and trust I'd get an attorney, especially if setting up a trust. If you really don't want to go to an attorney, just do a will.

We have a revocable living trust, and in our case there may be some advantages, but some people here in this forum who are far more knowledgeable than me have pointed out they are often overrated and unnecessary in many states.

In TX the cost of a clean probate is about the cost of setting up an RLC - about $2500-$3000, plus unless you do everything right you still may end up going through probate.

As to putting assets in the living trust , I don't think the attorney does that for you (with the exception of real property). They will give you specific language and it is up to you change the applicable account designations and account ownership. I have to admit I havent changed all accounts to put assets in the trust which partially defeats the purpose of the RLC.
Last edited by JBTX on Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
JoinToday
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by JoinToday »

bsteiner wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 5:52 pm ...
1. A nationally prominent trusts and estates lawyer, now retired, did a Will for himself on LegalZoom as a test (meaning that he didn't actually sign it).
He said that it was pretty good, though it didn't allow all the choices he wants. I don't know the lawyer you're considering, but it wouldn't surprise me if LegalZoom did a better job than a lawyer at $2,000, though it would depend on whether you selected the most appropriate options in LegalZoom.
....
I suspect a trust and estates lawyer could do a better job than the average Joe with trust software since they are probably more aware of the ramifications of various questions asked.

The biggest problem I see is that an average Joe doesn't know what he doesn't know, and doesn't know the options available. My first trust (in hindsight) was pretty generic, prepared by an attorney that also published articles, and recommended by another lawyer. Based on input I learned from this forum (bsteiner, gill, and numerous others in those threads), when I had my trust updated more recently, it was completely redone. My assets for my heirs are going into an irrevocable trust, with the heirs as one of the two trustees (thank you Bruce).

The problem with a bad trust is you don't really find out until it is too late.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by catalina355 »

Gray wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:47 pm I used Legal Zoom for my mother in law for durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and a will. For my wife. It worked just fine. No need to waste money on an attorney. It has a simple, TurboTax like interface.

Her house was sold and all of her assets bypassed probate when she died but we filed the registered will. No issues at all.

The more money and assets you have, and the more complex your situation, then an attorney is advisable. Preferably one specialized in estate/tax planning/law.
How did a will allow you to bypass probate?
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tooluser
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by tooluser »

My situation is very simple, and I am a big do-it-yourselfer in most aspects of my life, but I had mine drawn up by a lawyer. Don't underestimate the confidence that will result from having a lawyer do it.

Mine at least, was willing to sit with me for however long it took, and answer questions, and later answer followup questions, and a few more, and had directions on how to protect and socialize the documents and my desires with those who would execute them if I become fully disabled or dead, and helped with recovery when my original paperwork was later burgled from my house (now in a safe deposit box).

There are almost certainly things you have not considered and that no software package will tell you.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by Steelersfan »

I wouldn't do it, but I can see where some people can get away with using software to do a simple will and related documents.

i would never trust software to do a good job creating a a trust.
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augryphon
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by augryphon »

It seems to be too important an item to risk screwing it up. We’re talking $2500 vs hosing up your estate forever. Sorry, but I’ll pony up the $2500.
Last edited by augryphon on Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
senex
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by senex »

catalina355 wrote: Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:00 pm How did a will allow you to bypass probate?
I don't know about his particular case, but I've seen it be quite easy in general (if you're middle-income) to bypass probate entirely with only a will: setup beneficiaries on all financial accounts, make an arrangement for your home (sell it and rent back, title it jointly, setup a transfer on death deed in some states, etc), and simplify your personal effects.
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Steelersfan
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by Steelersfan »

I trust Bruce Steiner, a nationally recognized trust and estate attorney, when he says:

"Do you know that a revocable trust is appropriate for you? It's appropriate in some cases and in some states, but not for most people in most states."

Way to many people embark on creating one when it's not an appropriate solution.
catalina355
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by catalina355 »

senex wrote: Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:10 pm
catalina355 wrote: Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:00 pm How did a will allow you to bypass probate?
I don't know about his particular case, but I've seen it be quite easy in general (if you're middle-income) to bypass probate entirely with only a will: setup beneficiaries on all financial accounts, make an arrangement for your home (sell it and rent back, title it jointly, setup a transfer on death deed in some states, etc), and simplify your personal effects.
Essentially keeping everything out of the will so as to come under the limit that requires probate.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by gamboolman »

Sandtrap wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 10:26 pm Seek highly qualified legal counsel.
For substantial wealth or complex family dynamics, etc.
Definitely seek legal counsel.
j
What Sand said AIAEC
At least for Ms gamboolgal & I the money spent for attorney fees was well worth it
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by 2015 »

bsteiner wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 5:52 pm
fittan wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:15 pm
...

1. A nationally prominent trusts and estates lawyer, now retired, did a Will for himself on LegalZoom as a test (meaning that he didn't actually sign it).
He said that it was pretty good, though it didn't allow all the choices he wants. I don't know the lawyer you're considering, but it wouldn't surprise me if LegalZoom did a better job than a lawyer at $2,000, though it would depend on whether you selected the most appropriate options in LegalZoom.

2. That's something you would ask your lawyer. Some portion of the legal fee is for the time spent in answering whatever questions you might have.
I used LegalZoom to create a trust but recently used an attorney to amend and restate it. In creating the original trust, I read a 500 page Nolo book twice and used LZ's attorneys. In amending the trust, the local attorney took the time ask questions and to think through several scenarios that no LegalZoom attorney did and that I could not uncover on my own regardless of the reading. In using a local attorney to amend the trust, my executor also now has a local contact who will have knowledge of my estate.

In my mind, there is a difference in being frugal and being cheap. I wouldn't fill my own cavities and I'm no longer going to be overconfident enough to think I can navigate the legal mine field of estate planning on my own. And no, I don't want to make it my executor's problem.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by harrychan »

A good attorney. Software won't be able to advise problems with certain decisions and precedent that they have experienced. Ours shared how to best leverage tax benefits in certain structures of the trust.
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by wootwoot »

Software unless you have a complicated situation.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by burt »

90% of my assets are in financial institutions.
Agent Authorization (Power of Attorney) and beneficiaries are listed.
Joint accounts and TOD are up to date.
Home and car are small potatoes.

I will be writing my own will.

burt
Winston19
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by Winston19 »

Definitely an attorney. It is worth it for the piece of mind. Bypassing an attorney seems penny wise and pound foolish to me.
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by Gray »

catalina355 wrote: Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:00 pm
Gray wrote: Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:47 pm I used Legal Zoom for my mother in law for durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and a will. For my wife. It worked just fine. No need to waste money on an attorney. It has a simple, TurboTax like interface.

Her house was sold and all of her assets bypassed probate when she died but we filed the registered will. No issues at all.

The more money and assets you have, and the more complex your situation, then an attorney is advisable. Preferably one specialized in estate/tax planning/law.
How did a will allow you to bypass probate?
Her assets were in accounts held jointly with my wife (JTWROS) or were otherwise annuitized, which paid out lump sums to beneficiaries. The USAA annuities were only several years old at the time.

Everything remaining was personal effects split between her kids. We used the proceeds to do a joint family trip to Disney World later that year.

The will had no purpose really.
chazas
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by chazas »

An attorney who specializes in wills and trusts. Do not go with software. Do not go with a generalist.
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fittan
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by fittan »

OP here. Thanks to everyone who replied.

Maybe a bit of info about my situation. My family situation is very simple. Wife, myself and 2 young kids. No previous marriages. Finance are straightforward too. House, some 401Ks and term life insurance.

The only "complication" is that wife and I are immigrants. We are now all citizens but we have no one else in the country except the 4 of us. No parents, grandparents, relatives...nada. So my worry is in worse case where wife and I are wiped out, what would happen to kids welfare and financial security.

This is where (from my research) that a revocable living trust seem to fit my needs in 2 areas:

1) In worse case, the trust successor trustee would have all assets under one "box". House deed, 401K, brokerage, checking, savings account are all together so to speak. No need to chase around to transfer assets to kids name.

2) A trust allow me to give specific "withdrawal schedule" on when and how much kids can withdraw.

Would you say these are good reasons to get a trust? And since situation is fairly straightforward, do I really need an attorney?
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Steelersfan
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Re: Will and trust....software or attorney?

Post by Steelersfan »

You're willing to let the court pick the trustee and the guardian of your children, who many people think should be two different persons? Those are usually specified in a will.
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