Should I go for online Will making software?

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Topic Author
gurusw
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Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

Maybe this has been discussed before. But given we are in pandemic, I wanted to ask once again... Should I go for online Will making software?

I already have a living will made in MA 10 years back. Then I was married, my son was 3 years old, and I did not own a house. This was done with the help of the lawyer.
Now I am in CA, married (to same spouse), own a house, and son is 13.
So I've something in place, but the needs have changed.

I think CA does not require the Will to be notarized. But it needs to be signed by 2 witnesses.
So my current thought was to get the Will prepared online, and get is signed by by neighbors.

What are your thoughts?
Any recommendations for the online software?
Luckywon
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Luckywon »

gurusw wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 2:02 am Maybe this has been discussed before. But given we are in pandemic, I wanted to ask once again... Should I go for online Will making software?

I already have a living will made in MA 10 years back. Then I was married, my son was 3 years old, and I did not own a house. This was done with the help of the lawyer.
Now I am in CA, married (to same spouse), own a house, and son is 13.
So I've something in place, but the needs have changed.

I think CA does not require the Will to be notarized. But it needs to be signed by 2 witnesses.
So my current thought was to get the Will prepared online, and get is signed by by neighbors.

What are your thoughts?
Any recommendations for the online software?
If you are in California (like I am), in my opinion you should establish a revocable living trust so that your estate does not have to be probated. I would definitely not use software to draft your trust. you should have an attorney draft an estate plan including revocable living trust, Will, health care power-of-attorney, and springing durable power of attorney. These are especially important considering that you have a minor child.
carolinaman
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by carolinaman »

I highly recommend that you use an attorney to do your will. It will likely not cost you too much and you will be assured of getting it right. You can also do DPOA and health care directives at same time to be sure you cover your bases.

You can save some money by using will software but there is always a chance you miss something or make a small mistake which could nullify your will. Also, an attorney may ask you relevant questions that you have not considered which may affect the quality of your will. Paying an attorney to do this is money well spent, even by a DIYer.
stan1
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by stan1 »

With a child and house in CA yes I would bring in an attorney and I would go ahead a pay a few extra dollars to have them do the paperwork to put the house into trust with your county recorder. CA now has a transfer on death option for a primary home but you will have more flexibility with the trust.

CA inheritance laws are straight forward once you get past avoiding probate. If your assets are well under $5M and you lack complexities like children from multiple spouses, special needs children, or disinheriting some heirs you do not need an attorney who does bespoke estate plans. We got a couple's estate plan done for about $2200 in late 2019 from a young but meticulous attorney practicing by herself in an office located next to an auto mechanic. She had good references on Yelp, we met with her and she seemed capable, so we went with her. No reason to go to a multi-specialty attorney office renting Class A office space.
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anon_investor
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by anon_investor »

carolinaman wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 8:57 am I highly recommend that you use an attorney to do your will. It will likely not cost you too much and you will be assured of getting it right. You can also do DPOA and health care directives at same time to be sure you cover your bases.

You can save some money by using will software but there is always a chance you miss something or make a small mistake which could nullify your will. Also, an attorney may ask you relevant questions that you have not considered which may affect the quality of your will. Paying an attorney to do this is money well spent, even by a DIYer.
+1. This is one thing you can't fixed after you die. Do it right.
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gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

Thanks a lot, everyone. This helps me a lot with the decision.
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FIREchief
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by FIREchief »

I 100% agree that for most situations, it is worth the money to pay for a good estate attorney.

That said, I have a question for others in this thread. Let's assume a typical situation. Young couple. No prior marriages. One or more young children. Most/all financial assets have beneficiary designations that will allow the assets to pass directly without a will, probate process, etc. In other words, they just need to establish a few basics:

a) named executor
b) guardian for minor children
c) identification of a trustee to serve over a testamentary trust for the minor children
d) Medical POA
e) Durable POA
f) HIPAA release
g) Living will

As I understand it, in the total absence of a will, the courts would get involved with most/all of the issues identified above, and the courts' decisions would be subject to challenge by others. In the presence of a totally boilerplate estate plan using DIY software, the courts would likely accept whatever was documented and there would be little opportunity for challenge. I'll reiterate, there would be essentially zero financial issues involved which would provide little financial incentive for anybody to challenge the actions, and the worst case scenario would be the courts not accepting the documents and defaulting back to court oversight. In such a situation, what would be the risks of using software to establish and maintain an estate plan until such time that needs more clearly dictated the need for paid professional help from a good estate attorney?
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Vanguard Fan 1367 »

I explored will making software. I am glad for the money I gave my attorney to do it. The money I saved using Bogleheads investing rather than the 2% folks easily paid the bill.
Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
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Sandtrap
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Sandtrap »

Seek legal counsel.
Professional input is a must.

j :happy
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stan1
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by stan1 »

FIREchief wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 2:05 pm I 100% agree that for most situations, it is worth the money to pay for a good estate attorney.

n such a situation, what would be the risks of using software to establish and maintain an estate plan until such time that needs more clearly dictated the need for paid professional help from a good estate attorney?

I'm not a lawyer but:

If you have $500K or more cough up the $2-3K for an estate plan and access to an attorney even if it seems your situation is not complicated. When you start talking to the attorney you may find it is more complex than you think.

If you have $100K in assets or less do it yourself.

In the middle between the two? I'd probably still do it myself if I was confident in my family's ability to provide for my child.
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FIREchief
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by FIREchief »

stan1 wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 2:26 pm
FIREchief wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 2:05 pm I 100% agree that for most situations, it is worth the money to pay for a good estate attorney.

n such a situation, what would be the risks of using software to establish and maintain an estate plan until such time that needs more clearly dictated the need for paid professional help from a good estate attorney?

I'm not a lawyer but:

If you have $500K or more cough up the $2-3K for an estate plan and access to an attorney even if it seems your situation is not complicated. When you start talking to the attorney you may find it is more complex than you think.

If you have $100K in assets or less do it yourself.

In the middle between the two? I'd probably still do it myself if I was confident in my family's ability to provide for my child.
This seems reasonable. Please note, my hypothetical was a general question (i.e. nothing like my own current situation :D ). I think there are MANY young folks with young children out there who have absolutely no type of estate plan in place. We paid a turn-the-crank attorney a few hundred bucks decades ago to draft our first wills, and they were absolutely generic, we received no meaningful advice, and things like DPOA, etc. never even entered the discussion. If we had access to cheap DIY software back then, I just don't see that we would have introduced any meaningful risk. I could have stuck the money in the market, and it would be enough to hire the best attorney in town today (that last part may be hyperbole... :P ). I've been in the chorus on these threads, recommending paying a good attorney in the vast majority of situations (perhaps close to 100% Boglehead situations), but was raising the question for those with non-Boglehead family members who might benefit from at least doing "something."
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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Watty
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Watty »

Legal Zoom is an online option that includes a conference all with a lawyer so that would be an option to look into. They usually have a bundle with all the other related paperwork for a few hundred dollars. We used them and it seemed to go well but we have not had to use the paperwork and we did not have a kid that was a minor so it is hard to judge just how good it is. After we did the online questionnaires and had the paperwork we had a 30 minute conference call with the lawyer and we could have scheduled more time if we needed it. One of the things we discussed was if a trust would make sense for use and if it did they could have done that for an additional fee.

My impression was that it was just as good as if we had used a local budget lawyer but not a high end estate lawyer.

Be aware that the beneficiary on things like your retirement accounts will usually override anything your will says so that needs to be right.
Luckywon
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Luckywon »

FIREchief wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 2:05 pm I 100% agree that for most situations, it is worth the money to pay for a good estate attorney.

That said, I have a question for others in this thread. Let's assume a typical situation. Young couple. No prior marriages. One or more young children. Most/all financial assets have beneficiary designations that will allow the assets to pass directly without a will, probate process, etc. In other words, they just need to establish a few basics:

a) named executor
b) guardian for minor children
c) identification of a trustee to serve over a testamentary trust for the minor children
d) Medical POA
e) Durable POA
f) HIPAA release
g) Living will

As I understand it, in the total absence of a will, the courts would get involved with most/all of the issues identified above, and the courts' decisions would be subject to challenge by others. In the presence of a totally boilerplate estate plan using DIY software, the courts would likely accept whatever was documented and there would be little opportunity for challenge. I'll reiterate, there would be essentially zero financial issues involved which would provide little financial incentive for anybody to challenge the actions, and the worst case scenario would be the courts not accepting the documents and defaulting back to court oversight. In such a situation, what would be the risks of using software to establish and maintain an estate plan until such time that needs more clearly dictated the need for paid professional help from a good estate attorney?

I agree with you that in the scenario you describe, the software is likely better than having done nothing. I'd go one step further, saying that the software may be better than retaining the wrong attorney. My first estate plan and my father's estate plan were drawn up by an attorney using boilerplate documents that were extremely limited. He did not educate us on relevant issues and options at all. Through a combination of reading books, online sources and my current attorney I realize these documents did not address our needs optimally even at the time they were drafted. I strongly suspect most online software programs would have have provided a better final product for us.

How does one avoid hiring the wrong attorney? I'd say one has to diligently research and seek one out and be prepared to pay accordingly. Of course, educating oneself as much as possible on this topic beforehand will increase the probability of recognizing a suitable attorney and being able to efficiently work with that attorney to draft optimal documents.
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FIREchief
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by FIREchief »

Luckywon wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 3:49 pm I'd go one step further, saying that the software may be better than retaining the wrong attorney. My first estate plan and my father's estate plan were drawn up by an attorney using boilerplate documents that were extremely limited. He did not educate us on relevant issues and options at all. Through a combination of reading books, online sources and my current attorney I realize these documents did not address our needs optimally even at the time they were drafted. I strongly suspect most online software programs would have have provided a better final product for us.
Amen brother!! :sharebeer I think there are parallels with DIY tax software and using your brother-in-law's neighbor who is a "good guy." If I do it myself, I learn some stuff (including what I don't know) and over time likely become better positioned to select a tax expert when I really need one. We've certainly read enough horror stories of folks who had screwed up taxes because somebody did them wrong. Frighteningly, sometimes the culprit is a CPA. That doesn't mean I shouldn't get a tax expert when I need one (think estate tax return), but I can handle the annual 1040's just fine thank you.
How does one avoid hiring the wrong attorney? I'd say one has to diligently research and seek one out and be prepared to pay accordingly. Of course, educating oneself as much as possible on this topic beforehand will increase the probability of recognizing a suitable attorney and being able to efficiently work with that attorney to draft optimal documents.
I think this is spot on. I did a LOT of research on trusts before ever approaching an estate attorney for help. It was scary what some of them did NOT know. Ironically, I think it was during this phase that I first found Bogleheads.org. 8-)
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by MikeG62 »

anon_investor wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 9:23 am
carolinaman wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 8:57 am I highly recommend that you use an attorney to do your will. It will likely not cost you too much and you will be assured of getting it right. You can also do DPOA and health care directives at same time to be sure you cover your bases.

You can save some money by using will software but there is always a chance you miss something or make a small mistake which could nullify your will. Also, an attorney may ask you relevant questions that you have not considered which may affect the quality of your will. Paying an attorney to do this is money well spent, even by a DIYer.
+1. This is one thing you can't fixed after you die. Do it right.
My feelings as well.
Real Knowledge Comes Only From Experience
Topic Author
gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

Hi,

After some procrastination and after some research, I thought I finally found a good lawyer. He is someone my colleague has used, and the lawyer answered all questions in the initial call.

When I emailed them asking the next steps, the secretary replied "the next step is to pay our fees. you can pay by check or credit card".
I am taken a little aback by the response. Should they not put some kind of agreement/paperwork in place & send me an invoice?

What are the typical steps when a lawyer helps you with estate planning?
Luckywon
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Luckywon »

gurusw wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:41 pm Hi,

After some procrastination and after some research, I thought I finally found a good lawyer. He is someone my colleague has used, and the lawyer answered all questions in the initial call.

When I emailed them asking the next steps, the secretary replied "the next step is to pay our fees. you can pay by check or credit card".
I am taken a little aback by the response. Should they not put some kind of agreement/paperwork in place & send me an invoice?

What are the typical steps when a lawyer helps you with estate planning?
I'm in California too. I've retained three attorneys for estate planning and at least 20 for other matters. Every one of them presented me with a written retainer agreement. So what you describe is not typical in my experience. May I ask how much the attorney is charging you and what the scope of work is?
palanzo
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by palanzo »

MikeG62 wrote: Sun May 17, 2020 9:56 am
anon_investor wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 9:23 am
carolinaman wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 8:57 am I highly recommend that you use an attorney to do your will. It will likely not cost you too much and you will be assured of getting it right. You can also do DPOA and health care directives at same time to be sure you cover your bases.

You can save some money by using will software but there is always a chance you miss something or make a small mistake which could nullify your will. Also, an attorney may ask you relevant questions that you have not considered which may affect the quality of your will. Paying an attorney to do this is money well spent, even by a DIYer.
+1. This is one thing you can't fixed after you die. Do it right.
My feelings as well.
An attorney also can make a small mistake which could nullify your will.
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gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

Luckywon wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:28 am
gurusw wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:41 pm Hi,

After some procrastination and after some research, I thought I finally found a good lawyer. He is someone my colleague has used, and the lawyer answered all questions in the initial call.

When I emailed them asking the next steps, the secretary replied "the next step is to pay our fees. you can pay by check or credit card".
I am taken a little aback by the response. Should they not put some kind of agreement/paperwork in place & send me an invoice?

What are the typical steps when a lawyer helps you with estate planning?
I'm in California too. I've retained three attorneys for estate planning and at least 20 for other matters. Every one of them presented me with a written retainer agreement. So what you describe is not typical in my experience. May I ask how much the attorney is charging you and what the scope of work is?
$1500 for Living Will, Health-care proxy, Guardianship of kid, Power of Attorney, Estate plan for me & spouse. I am missing something... of course I do, I do not have an agreement :)
EvelynTroy
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by EvelynTroy »

gurusw wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 1:24 am
Luckywon wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:28 am
gurusw wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:41 pm Hi,

After some procrastination and after some research, I thought I finally found a good lawyer. He is someone my colleague has used, and the lawyer answered all questions in the initial call.

When I emailed them asking the next steps, the secretary replied "the next step is to pay our fees. you can pay by check or credit card".
I am taken a little aback by the response. Should they not put some kind of agreement/paperwork in place & send me an invoice?

What are the typical steps when a lawyer helps you with estate planning?
I'm in California too. I've retained three attorneys for estate planning and at least 20 for other matters. Every one of them presented me with a written retainer agreement. So what you describe is not typical in my experience. May I ask how much the attorney is charging you and what the scope of work is?
$1500 for Living Will, Health-care proxy, Guardianship of kid, Power of Attorney, Estate plan for me & spouse. I am missing something... of course I do, I do not have an agreement :)
I reside in Missouri, so different situation than CA.
I agree 100% to seek a good estate attorney and do it right. I can't imagine paying the fees upfront - I'd look elsewhere. I would have been taken aback as well.
My steps:
- Had a face to face meet and greet - he explained the process, and fees. He provided the docs and info. he would need if we moved forward. I provided my needs. 30-40 minutes. He also provided background reading material on the items you outlined above. For me there are just some things I want to do face to face - I'm establishing a long term relationship, i.e. these documents will need revising or reviewed as my situation changes.
- I brought the docs and info. he required some days later.
- Returned for a meeting where he had completed the documents.
- He encouraged me to take everything home, read carefully and review for any changes or things I might not understand.
- I returned for a final meeting to sign the docs, with the notary present. Paid the fee.

My cost as I recall little over $1,000 - I am single, no dependents so my situation may be a bit simpler.

If I did it again, the only thing I would do or seek guidance on. I did it myself, and think its fine. That would be - the attorney's views and/or direction on putting together your digital assets estate plan. I picked this randomly - if you haven't thought about your digital assets -
https://www.truewealth.com/digital-asse ... w-and-why/

I don't think my attorney mentioned digital assets because its been over 10 years that I put my plan together and at that time digital assets planning wasn't a big issue.

Stay safe - Evelyn
J Dough
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by J Dough »

palanzo wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 12:38 am
MikeG62 wrote: Sun May 17, 2020 9:56 am
anon_investor wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 9:23 am
carolinaman wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 8:57 am I highly recommend that you use an attorney to do your will. It will likely not cost you too much and you will be assured of getting it right. You can also do DPOA and health care directives at same time to be sure you cover your bases.

You can save some money by using will software but there is always a chance you miss something or make a small mistake which could nullify your will. Also, an attorney may ask you relevant questions that you have not considered which may affect the quality of your will. Paying an attorney to do this is money well spent, even by a DIYer.
+1. This is one thing you can't fixed after you die. Do it right.
My feelings as well.
An attorney also can make a small mistake which could nullify your will.
If you do it yourself and make a mistake that nullifies your will, your intended beneficiaries are out of luck. If an attorney makes a mistake that nullifies your will, your intended beneficiaries have a legal malpractice claim against the attorney and the law firm. Having a legal malpractice claim doesn't fix the real problem, but it provides an avenue to find some recourse.
Golf maniac
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Golf maniac »

First two times I used an attorney and all we got was a big bill and boilerplate fill in the blank forms. This last time with no minor children and simple assets we did it ourselves and save about $1,000. The online forms are made for your state. If you are not comfortable doing it yourself then Zoom legal is an option. Full disclosure, I am not a big fan of attorneys.
stan1
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by stan1 »

gurusw wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 1:24 am
$1500 for Living Will, Health-care proxy, Guardianship of kid, Power of Attorney, Estate plan for me & spouse. I am missing something... of course I do, I do not have an agreement :)
That's a low cost option where the attorney/paralegal will enter your data into their estate plan writing software. You will fill out a questionnaire in advance with all the information needed. They will have a call or meeting to go over the questionnaire with you and answer your questions. Then they will enter it into the software, send it to you for review, and have a second meeting for final signing. At that time they will make any changes you request. In California this process is fine for most people who expect to have under $5M at time of death or do not have complications like owning a business.
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gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

Thanks a lot, Evelyn, Stan and everybody :)

I forgot to mention that I have estate plan docs from another state from 10 years back, and the attorney said heis going to do "reinstation". Not sure if this adds to complexity, but thought I should mention it.
Nearly A Moose
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Nearly A Moose »

gurusw wrote: Tue Sep 22, 2020 10:41 pm Hi,

After some procrastination and after some research, I thought I finally found a good lawyer. He is someone my colleague has used, and the lawyer answered all questions in the initial call.

When I emailed them asking the next steps, the secretary replied "the next step is to pay our fees. you can pay by check or credit card".
I am taken a little aback by the response. Should they not put some kind of agreement/paperwork in place & send me an invoice?

What are the typical steps when a lawyer helps you with estate planning?
You should have a written engagement letter with the attorney. It should spell out, among other things, the scope of the representation and the fee structure. Perhaps the secretary assumed you had done that already? Regardless, it shouldn't be hard to ask for the engagement letter. If anything, that tells the attorney you're actually going to retain him or her after the initial, presumably free, consultation.
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.
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gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

stan1 wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:11 am
gurusw wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 1:24 am
$1500 for Living Will, Health-care proxy, Guardianship of kid, Power of Attorney, Estate plan for me & spouse.
In California this process is fine for most people who expect to have under $5M at time of death or do not have complications like owning a business.
Yes, mostly we will have less than $5M.

So the lawyer's fees are $1750 + title charges. Since I came via referral he is doing it for $1500 + title charges. When I told him about old estate plan, he right away said he will do reinstation.

What would be the fees on the higher side? I also had a quote for $3850 from another lawyer. But honestly I could not tell what more I will be getting by paying extra to the second lawyer. Again the title charges are not included in the fees. And when I told him about old estate plan from another state, he had to come back to me later on via email to explain that he will have to reinstation!
Last edited by gurusw on Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Big Dog
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Big Dog »

stan1 wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 2:26 pm
FIREchief wrote: Sat May 16, 2020 2:05 pm I 100% agree that for most situations, it is worth the money to pay for a good estate attorney.

n such a situation, what would be the risks of using software to establish and maintain an estate plan until such time that needs more clearly dictated the need for paid professional help from a good estate attorney?

I'm not a lawyer but:

If you have $500K or more cough up the $2-3K for an estate plan and access to an attorney even if it seems your situation is not complicated. When you start talking to the attorney you may find it is more complex than you think.

If you have $100K in assets or less do it yourself.

In the middle between the two? I'd probably still do it myself if I was confident in my family's ability to provide for my child.
Not sure that I agree. Many/most assets can be assigned to spouse/beneficiaries by PoD/ToD. A will is ignored in such cases. In CA, a house can also be transferred by ToD. In our case, we have 99% of everything setup that way. The other 1% the kids can fight over or donate to Goodwill.

As the kids are grown, no former marriages, Nolo/Zoom is all we need. I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
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gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
If you are holding the property title in joint ownership, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis for the property tax purposes will be as of the day of death of the spouse.

If the property title is held in the name of the trust, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis or the property tax purposes will be unchanged.

e.g. 400K house appreciates to 1 million when the spouse passes away.
In case 1, you start paying taxes on 1 million property.
In case 2, you continue paying taxes on 400K property.
Big Dog
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Big Dog »

gurusw wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:30 pm
I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
If you are holding the property title in joint ownership, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis for the property tax purposes will be as of the day of death of the spouse.

If the property title is held in the name of the trust, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis or the property tax purposes will be unchanged.

e.g. 400K house appreciates to 1 million when the spouse passes away.
In case 1, you start paying taxes on 1 million property.
In case 2, you continue paying taxes on 400K property.
Still not necessary. CA is a community property state. Hold the title in Community property and the title passes to spouse with no tax implications. Prop 13 basis is maintained, and bcos its community property, the cost basis (for capital gains) is stepped-up. Also works for transferring property to kids.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/ne ... 163822.php
phxjcc
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by phxjcc »

Big Dog wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:19 pm
gurusw wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:30 pm
I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
If you are holding the property title in joint ownership, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis for the property tax purposes will be as of the day of death of the spouse.

If the property title is held in the name of the trust, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis or the property tax purposes will be unchanged.

e.g. 400K house appreciates to 1 million when the spouse passes away.
In case 1, you start paying taxes on 1 million property.
In case 2, you continue paying taxes on 400K property.
Still not necessary. CA is a community property state. Hold the title in Community property and the title passes to spouse with no tax implications. Prop 13 basis is maintained, and bcos its community property, the cost basis (for capital gains) is stepped-up. Also works for transferring property to kids.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/ne ... 163822.php
I believe this is correct.

As to the OP's question...my response is:

The 90/10 rule applies here.
90% are going to be boiler plate, fill in the names of the decedants, heirs, properties, assets and who gets what and the estate is disposed of by whom.
Real world, that is all your lawyer's legal secretary is going to do, then print it out and put it into a pretty binder for you to feel that you got your $1550, $2000, $3000 or more worth. You get: the Trust, the Certification of Trust, the Will, the MPOA, the DPOA, the MEDICAL DIRECTIVE, the statements of assets in and out of the trust, copies of the recorded deeds, etc. very impressive package--but it's BOILERPLATE.

If it is a very simple straight line inheritance, e.g., widowed mother to her only natural child, who gets everything, then you can do the entire thing yourself. Easy-peasy.

If your names are HUTTON & POST, you need help.
Ditto, easy call. Hire a team of lawyers.

The nasty 10% is where lawyers can help.
Step Kids?
Ex's?
Business Partners?
Minor Children caretaker issues?
Crazy Aunt Blanche that needs an allowance to pay for her Assisted Living?
(But for DOG sakes don't give her a lump sum!)
Multi-use Real Property?
365 GT/B worth $500K that your Prius driving/ICE hating relatives don't "get"--that you want to leave to your best friend Kevin because he told you to buy it in 1980 for $15,000 and you and he spent a decade restoring, every nut and bolt yourselves. Yeah, that's going to be a problem! (Almost a true story)
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gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

phxjcc wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 12:17 am As to the OP's question...my response is:

The 90/10 rule applies here.
90% are going to be boiler plate, fill in the names of the decedants, heirs, properties, assets and who gets what and the estate is disposed of by whom.
Real world, that is all your lawyer's legal secretary is going to do, then print it out and put it into a pretty binder for you to feel that you got your $1550, $2000, $3000 or more worth. You get: the Trust, the Certification of Trust, the Will, the MPOA, the DPOA, the MEDICAL DIRECTIVE, the statements of assets in and out of the trust, copies of the recorded deeds, etc. very impressive package--but it's BOILERPLATE.

If it is a very simple straight line inheritance, e.g., widowed mother to her only natural child, who gets everything, then you can do the entire thing yourself. Easy-peasy.

If your names are HUTTON & POST, you need help.
Ditto, easy call. Hire a team of lawyers.

The nasty 10% is where lawyers can help.
Step Kids?
Ex's?
Business Partners?
Minor Children caretaker issues?
Crazy Aunt Blanche that needs an allowance to pay for her Assisted Living?
(But for DOG sakes don't give her a lump sum!)
Multi-use Real Property?
365 GT/B worth $500K that your Prius driving/ICE hating relatives don't "get"--that you want to leave to your best friend Kevin because he told you to buy it in 1980 for $15,000 and you and he spent a decade restoring, every nut and bolt yourselves. Yeah, that's going to be a problem! (Almost a true story)
Thanks phxjcc. So are you advocating Will making software for simple straight-forward cases?
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by palanzo »

phxjcc wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 12:17 am
Big Dog wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:19 pm
gurusw wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:30 pm
I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
If you are holding the property title in joint ownership, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis for the property tax purposes will be as of the day of death of the spouse.

If the property title is held in the name of the trust, then after the death of spouse, the house will be yours, but the cost basis or the property tax purposes will be unchanged.

e.g. 400K house appreciates to 1 million when the spouse passes away.
In case 1, you start paying taxes on 1 million property.
In case 2, you continue paying taxes on 400K property.
Still not necessary. CA is a community property state. Hold the title in Community property and the title passes to spouse with no tax implications. Prop 13 basis is maintained, and bcos its community property, the cost basis (for capital gains) is stepped-up. Also works for transferring property to kids.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/ne ... 163822.php
I believe this is correct.

As to the OP's question...my response is:

The 90/10 rule applies here.
90% are going to be boiler plate, fill in the names of the decedants, heirs, properties, assets and who gets what and the estate is disposed of by whom.
Real world, that is all your lawyer's legal secretary is going to do, then print it out and put it into a pretty binder for you to feel that you got your $1550, $2000, $3000 or more worth. You get: the Trust, the Certification of Trust, the Will, the MPOA, the DPOA, the MEDICAL DIRECTIVE, the statements of assets in and out of the trust, copies of the recorded deeds, etc. very impressive package--but it's BOILERPLATE.

If it is a very simple straight line inheritance, e.g., widowed mother to her only natural child, who gets everything, then you can do the entire thing yourself. Easy-peasy.

If your names are HUTTON & POST, you need help.
Ditto, easy call. Hire a team of lawyers.

The nasty 10% is where lawyers can help.
Step Kids?
Ex's?
Business Partners?
Minor Children caretaker issues?
Crazy Aunt Blanche that needs an allowance to pay for her Assisted Living?
(But for DOG sakes don't give her a lump sum!)
Multi-use Real Property?
365 GT/B worth $500K that your Prius driving/ICE hating relatives don't "get"--that you want to leave to your best friend Kevin because he told you to buy it in 1980 for $15,000 and you and he spent a decade restoring, every nut and bolt yourselves. Yeah, that's going to be a problem! (Almost a true story)
I agree with your points. One question: where does an ex come into a will? You list Ex under where lawyers can help.
bsteiner
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by bsteiner »

gurusw wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:53 pm ...
Yes, mostly we will have less than $5M.

So the lawyer's fees are $1750 + title charges. Since I came via referral he is doing it for $1500 + title charges. When I told him about old estate plan, he right away said he will do reinstation.

What would be the fees on the higher side? I also had a quote for $3850 from another lawyer. But honestly I could not tell what more I will be getting by paying extra to the second lawyer. Again the title charges are not included in the fees. And when I told him about old estate plan from another state, he had to come back to me later on via email to explain that he will have to reinstation!
The fees may vary considerably depending on the level of the lawyer and the law firm, whether the lawyer focuses on this practice area, the size of the law firm, and the location. For example, when you were in Massachusetts, the fees would probably vary considerably between a large firm in Boston with a strong trusts and estates group or a boutique tax and trusts and estates firm in Boston on the one hand, and a small general practice firm in the middle of the state. Or in California the fees would probably vary considerably between a large firm in San Francisco or Los Angeles with a strong trusts and estates group or a boutique tax and trusts and estates firm in San Francisco or Los Angeles on the one had, and a small general practice firm inland.

The fees for the same project may also vary considerably from one client to another depending on the amount of time the client needs in the decision making process.

The possible differences include more thought as to the te5ms of the trust for the surviving spouse (if you decide to provide for the surviving spouse in trust), the flexibility and asset protection in the trusts for your children, and coordinating your life insurance and retirement benefits with your Will (or, since you're in California, your revocable trust).

Also, after your death, there's a good chance that your family will go back to the law firm that did the planning. There are often decisions in an estate administration that have tax consequences. In case your family goes back to the same firm, it may be beneficial to do the planning with a firm that has a good trusts and estates practice.

You may or may not get what you're paying for at the higher price. But you're probably not likely to get what you're not paying for at the lower price.
stan1
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by stan1 »

Big Dog wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:12 pm
Not sure that I agree. Many/most assets can be assigned to spouse/beneficiaries by PoD/ToD. A will is ignored in such cases. In CA, a house can also be transferred by ToD. In our case, we have 99% of everything setup that way. The other 1% the kids can fight over or donate to Goodwill.

As the kids are grown, no former marriages, Nolo/Zoom is all we need. I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
There are some major limitations on TOD designations on a home in California. You cannot make contingency designations in case the first named beneficiary is no longer living and if beneficiary predeceases you it goes into probate. You cannot designate a beneficiary as something like "all of my children". Finally cannot use for a home owned by a married couple as community property or JTWROS. Knowing that might be one reason to spend $2K on an attorney.

In California yes I think Legal Zoom with house in a living trust would be fine (grown kids, apparently no business partnerships, apparantly well under estate tax threshold). The $2K attorney will use similar software as Legal Zoom to draft the documents. If you have $ millions you can afford the $2K to meet with an attorney to see if there is something you are overlooking.
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Big Dog »

stan1 wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 9:00 am
Big Dog wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:12 pm
Not sure that I agree. Many/most assets can be assigned to spouse/beneficiaries by PoD/ToD. A will is ignored in such cases. In CA, a house can also be transferred by ToD. In our case, we have 99% of everything setup that way. The other 1% the kids can fight over or donate to Goodwill.

As the kids are grown, no former marriages, Nolo/Zoom is all we need. I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
There are some major limitations on TOD designations on a home in California.
You cannot make contingency designations in case the first named beneficiary is no longer living and if beneficiary predeceases you it goes into probate.
Correct. And the big risk is that both parents owners get hit by a bus and die simultaneously. Rare, but possible.
You cannot designate a beneficiary as something like "all of my children".
Concur, but not sure having to change a beneficiary is that big of a deal, particularly for a boglehead, so don't see that a a "major" limitation. As I only have two children, there is zero need to state 'all of my children."

Finally cannot use for a home owned by a married couple as community property or JTWROS.
[/quote]

I believe above cases are addressed if both of the community property owners file a separate ToD (naming the same benies).


fwiw: The significant risk is that CA ToD law for real property expires Jan 1-21, unless renewed by the Legislature. (obviously, the estate attorneys will be pushing hard to allow it to sunset.) However, all ToD's filed prior to Jan 1 will remain legally valid. (Dunno about changing beneficiaries after that date....)
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gr7070
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gr7070 »

The verbiage needed in a simple if-I-die-spouse-gets-it-then-kids-split-it-if-she's-gone will is incredibly simple. I can't fathom why one would bother with a lawyer in those situations.

As mentioned already lawyers screw things up all the time. Even good ones can make mistakes. In order to pick a good one, one needs to be educated enough. Enough to recognize how simple a basic will really is.

Additionally, as mentioned so much property passes outside a will ones risk is limited greatly.

At the very least I highly recommend buying will software and reading the manual, read the FAQ, and creating a will yourself. This will give you some info to make a decision on how to proceed, what questions to ask, education choosing a lawyer, etc.

You might choose not to get a lawyer after all. I wouldn't.
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papiper
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by papiper »

If there is a chance you think someone might contest your will or you have a complicated estate, a lawyer would make sense. For a simple family with no previous divorces or contentious offspring I have never heard of an online will or estate plan having any issues. For the majority of "clients" it just doesn't make sense to pay for a custom job.
hnd
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by hnd »

Everything for us is very simple and straight forward. I Spent 400 dollars at Legalzoom which included a call with a lawyer to go over the information I entered. that was for living will and trust and power of attorney.
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gurusw
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gurusw »

The only wrinkle I have is old trust/will from another state from 10 years back. Can the online software take care of Reinstation?
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by familythriftmd »

Some workplace benefits plans offer legal insurance, which covers estate planning! Saved me thousands. :D
Thrift stores, outlets and market corrections have this in common: you're buying on sale.
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gr7070
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by gr7070 »

gurusw wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:12 am The only wrinkle I have is old trust/will from another state from 10 years back. Can the online software take care of Reinstation?
IANAL

I know very little of trusts. This might be a complexity that necessitates using a lawyer. It might not, as well.
???

I'd start by reading those existing docs. If there's nothing alarming that you set up in those docs you should have plenty of time to research your next steps. Going through Willmaker and its accompanying materials or reading a great book would be a must for me.

A will should have verbiage that invalidates past wills. This should not be a concern in using software.
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Ben Mathew
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Ben Mathew »

I think it would be a good idea to read a book on estate planning before using Will making software (or indeed before using a lawyer.) That way, you get a sense of what you need, and can then better evaluate whether the software can deliver it.

I recommend Get Your Ducks in a Row by Harry Margolis for the purpose.
Duckinator
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Duckinator »

I have used NOLO Quicken Willmaker and found it to be quite easy to use for the relatively simple Wills we had. It can also create a number of other documents. It will update for your specific states' law (I have the CD version on a laptop rather than the online version). For us the Will is a backup for anything that might slip through without ToD. Mom recently put her house/20 acres on a beneficiary deed.
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by palanzo »

stan1 wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 9:00 am
Big Dog wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:12 pm
Not sure that I agree. Many/most assets can be assigned to spouse/beneficiaries by PoD/ToD. A will is ignored in such cases. In CA, a house can also be transferred by ToD. In our case, we have 99% of everything setup that way. The other 1% the kids can fight over or donate to Goodwill.

As the kids are grown, no former marriages, Nolo/Zoom is all we need. I've yet to read one good reason why we should spend $2k on an attorney.
There are some major limitations on TOD designations on a home in California. You cannot make contingency designations in case the first named beneficiary is no longer living and if beneficiary predeceases you it goes into probate. You cannot designate a beneficiary as something like "all of my children". Finally cannot use for a home owned by a married couple as community property or JTWROS. Knowing that might be one reason to spend $2K on an attorney.

In California yes I think Legal Zoom with house in a living trust would be fine (grown kids, apparently no business partnerships, apparantly well under estate tax threshold). The $2K attorney will use similar software as Legal Zoom to draft the documents. If you have $ millions you can afford the $2K to meet with an attorney to see if there is something you are overlooking.
If the first named beneficiary is no longer living would you not make a change to the ToD?
palanzo
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by palanzo »

papiper wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 10:28 am If there is a chance you think someone might contest your will or you have a complicated estate, a lawyer would make sense. For a simple family with no previous divorces or contentious offspring I have never heard of an online will or estate plan having any issues. For the majority of "clients" it just doesn't make sense to pay for a custom job.
How is a lawyer going to help if in the future your will might be contested?
senex
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by senex »

gurusw wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:12 am The only wrinkle I have is old trust/will from another state from 10 years back. Can the online software take care of Reinstation?
Every time I've written/rewritten/reviewed a will, the first few lines say something like "this will revokes and supersedes all previously written wills and codicils."

To me, as a non-attorney, it seems vastly simpler to revoke all previous documents and start "from scratch." I'm not sure why one would want the complexity of doing a "reinstation" of some old document. (I don't really know what "reinstation" means, but it sounds more complex than just revoking prior documents).

Maybe reinstation is a trust concept, in which case, I have even less of a clue.
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by FIREchief »

gurusw wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:12 am The only wrinkle I have is old trust/will from another state from 10 years back. Can the online software take care of Reinstation?
Why do you think this will be an issue? Wouldn't the new document simply supersede any older documents? Does anybody other than you even have a signed copy of the prior document(s)?
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by tibbitts »

gurusw wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:12 am The only wrinkle I have is old trust/will from another state from 10 years back. Can the online software take care of Reinstation?
I'm not a lawyer but I'd never heard that word. My understanding was that a more recent will replaces an older one. I've seen "restatement" used in a legal context with regard to trusts. I've seen "reinstatement" used for beneficiaries. But not reinstation. I'm surprised nobody has commented on that directly.
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by marcwd »

tibbitts wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 2:18 pm
gurusw wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:12 am The only wrinkle I have is old trust/will from another state from 10 years back. Can the online software take care of Reinstation?
I'm not a lawyer but I'd never heard that word. My understanding was that a more recent will replaces an older one. I've seen "restatement" used in a legal context with regard to trusts. I've seen "reinstatement" used for beneficiaries. But not reinstation. I'm surprised nobody has commented on that directly.
I think the word is “re-instantiation.”
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Re: Should I go for online Will making software?

Post by Freetime76 »

We used an online will, POA, living wills for both DH and I, previously. We are going to do so again (this time, through free will.com) - we moved to a new state. Simple, no kids, most accounts are POD/TOD. What pushed us to do our wills many years ago was a) getting married and b) a certain amount of crazy in each family. We’re both comfortable with the documents.

The text is similar to wills prepared over the years by mom mom and dad’s attorneys (different states). Our parents preferred having an actual person as their attorney, with a decades-long relationship. We prefer actually getting it done with easily without appointments or meetings.

The most inconvenient part for us was getting the witnesses and notary, and printing at the library. We haven’t died or become incapacitated yet, so I can’t speak to the efficacy of the documents. :shock:
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