Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

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jtea3051
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Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by jtea3051 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:48 am

We are a couple without too many assets, but we do have two minor daughters. We are looking for the best way to create a will. We do not have the $500-$700 to go to an attorney. Should we use US Legal Forms, Legalzoom, or Quicken Willmaker? Also, do both my wife and I need to create a will, or is their a joint will? I hope these are not dumb questions. I just want to do what is best. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks...

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dm200
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by dm200 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:57 am

jtea3051 wrote:We are a couple without too many assets, but we do have two minor daughters. We are looking for the best way to create a will. We do not have the $500-$700 to go to an attorney. Should we use US Legal Forms, Legalzoom, or Quicken Willmaker? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks...
Sometimes a bad will might be worse than no will at all.

1. If you have no will, then your state has one for you. Check out the details for your state.

2. Check out what happens if both parents die in relation to your children. Are there apparent folks to take them if that should happen?

Others here have different opinions, but I am wary of "do it yourself" wills and trusts.

trico
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by trico » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:15 am

My father died 3 years ago and he had a Will and a Trust.This was the way to go because we avoided probate, and his assets were transferd to us immediately with a death certificate. Wills alone will not make your assets avoid probate. A good way would be to have a simple Will and purchase annuities, with you heirs as your beneficiary. Annuities transfer upon death and avoid probate. Make sure if you do a simple Will, you do a living Will, and that you do a medical power of attorney. If you don't do a medical power of attorney and living Will, the hospital will keep you artificially alive, until you run out of assets, then they pull the plug. Another reason to have annuities because I don't think they can go after those assets.

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by imagardener » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:17 am

I can't answer your big question but can suggest you make sure to have your beneficiaries named on all financial assets (bank CD's, brokerage accounts, IRA's, pensions) and then try and always have financial accounts/house titled jointly. For a married couple with simple assets this can be almost as good as a will because it removes those assets from probate and the survivor has immediate access to the accounts at a time they may need to pay for hospital or funeral bills.

Also, something I learned a couple years ago is that when taking out a bank CD you can ask for it to be titled "Your name POD your spouses name" POD means "payable on death", some banks use TOD "transfer on death" instead. So it would read "John Smith payable on death Mary Smith". In this way you could have several CD's at a bank and not exceed the federal insurance coverage limits. For example (if you found a great CD rate and had enough money to open several CD's) you could have a joint CD, an individual John Smith CD POD to Mary Smith and a Mary Smith CD POD to John Smith. You could even name children as the POD but if they are minors that is not as good an idea.

I have never had any bank offer this titling to us but when we asked it was "Of course we can do that".

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by camper » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:26 am

I am in a similar situation as the OP. We already have set up all financial accounts with a beneficiary (spouse) and a secondary beneficiary (only child). Do the Bogleheads have any suggested reading on the subject?

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dm200
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by dm200 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:30 am

imagardener wrote:I can't answer your big question but can suggest you make sure to have your beneficiaries named on all financial assets (bank CD's, brokerage accounts, IRA's, pensions) and then try and always have financial accounts/house titled jointly. For a married couple with simple assets this can be almost as good as a will because it removes those assets from probate and the survivor has immediate access to the accounts at a time they may need to pay for hospital or funeral bills.

Also, something I learned a couple years ago is that when taking out a bank CD you can ask for it to be titled "Your name POD your spouses name" POD means "payable on death", some banks use TOD "transfer on death" instead. So it would read "John Smith payable on death Mary Smith". In this way you could have several CD's at a bank and not exceed the federal insurance coverage limits. For example (if you found a great CD rate and had enough money to open several CD's) you could have a joint CD, an individual John Smith CD POD to Mary Smith and a Mary Smith CD POD to John Smith. You could even name children as the POD but if they are minors that is not as good an idea.

I have never had any bank offer this titling to us but when we asked it was "Of course we can do that".
The details of POD and TOD use on accounts may differ (sometimes significantly) depending on applicable state law. So, what a bank can do for one person in one state may not be able to be done for another person in another state.

Regarding minors - our estate planning attorney cautioned us about naming our (at the time) minor child as a beneficiary, but rather use a testamentary trust (in your will) or a trust for funds going to a minor.

jtea3051
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by jtea3051 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:31 am

Our financial situation is taken care of with the items that you listed. It is the children that we are worried about and how to create the will. US Legal forms seems to have the best deal, but we do prepare it ourselves.

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by BigFoot48 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:31 am

WillMaker will do an excellent job for the two wills you need to create.
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by SP-diceman » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:38 am

I’ve heard good things about Legalzoom from others, but never used it myself.



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tim1999
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by tim1999 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:17 pm

I checked out one of those "Nolo" books from the library and wrote my own in a couple of hours. I have a very simple estate though. I'm not a lawyer, but do have some legal education/work experience, so it was not a total shot in the dark to write it.

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Fallible » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:24 pm

jtea3051 wrote:We are a couple without too many assets, but we do have two minor daughters. We are looking for the best way to create a will. We do not have the $500-$700 to go to an attorney. Should we use US Legal Forms, Legalzoom, or Quicken Willmaker? Also, do both my wife and I need to create a will, or is their a joint will? I hope these are not dumb questions. I just want to do what is best. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks...
IMO and based on my family experiences, the most frugal way to create a will is to do it right in the first place and I would strongly suggest a good estate attorney. Interview several for the best fees, which could be lower than you think if it's a relatively simple will.
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rohitj
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by rohitj » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:39 pm

If you work for a big company, you can sign up (usually doing open enrollment) for 1 year of legal services. One of the legal services covered is estate planning. FWIW, you can usually get a decent lawyer to help set everything up for a grand or so, depending upon the complexity of your estate. Obviously this varies if you have all sorts of assets etc.,

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by JDCPAEsq » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:40 pm

Having your wills drawn with provisions for spouse and minor children is not the time for do-it-yourself will preparation. Find a good trust and estate attorney and have it done properly.
John

larrydmsn
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by larrydmsn » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:41 pm

Does your company provide legal plan benefits? If so, participate for less than 20 bucks a month (in my case) and you can have a will and a living will through a in-network lawyer for each of you.
Last edited by larrydmsn on Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

tj
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by tj » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:06 pm

If your situation isn't complicated, why not use the free template at http://www.doyourownwill.com/ ?

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Watty
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Watty » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:20 pm

Regarding minors - our estate planning attorney cautioned us about naming our (at the time) minor child as a beneficiary, but rather use a testamentary trust (in your will) or a trust for funds going to a minor.
Be carefull about this with retirment accounts. When a trust is named as a beneficiary of a retirment account it raises all sorts of questions that may require a lawyer to (hopefully) sort out since a trust cannot usually own a retirment account and in the worst case it the money might have to come out of the retirment account and be taxed to go into the trust.


Be aware that having the right beneficiary named on your retirment accounts is critical since the way it is named on the account will normally override what is in the will.

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PaddyMac
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by PaddyMac » Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:06 am

We don't have kids, but I remember Suze Orman always saying that "minors cannot inherit money" so you need a trust, not a will.

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Mrs.Feeley
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Mrs.Feeley » Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:50 am

Our local university offered a "mini-course" for $25 on wills that my husband and I attended. The lecturer was an estate attorney who advised on all the in's and out's and planning considerations for creating a will that would comply with local estate laws and court peculiarties. With an emphasis on what forms can be downloaded from the state's web site that would service a very simple will and power-of-attorney situation. An hour of free legal counsel was tossed in as part of the deal. It was very eye-opening and if you can find something like this in your local community--our city rec dept. sometimes offers a similar class--I would highly recommend it.

One interesting point she made was that a typical married couple will spend a big chunk of change on legal fees writing a will to make elaborate provisions for what should happen should both spouses suddenly die. She said that in her 30+ years of estate-only legal practice she had never once encountered an estate in which both spouses died simultaneously. The odds of it happening are extremely slim unless both are on a plane that goes down. She didn't advise against making provisions in both wills to handle a situation in which both spouses die, merely cautioned that one should curb one's natural tendency to throw away buckets of money on legal fees to handle this unlikely scenario.

One other thought. I've seen it happen several times in my family, and I've seen it in other families too. A couple will write very detailed wills. They will make it known to everyone in the family what their intentions are. One will die. The other will become incapacitated shortly thereafter. Whoever gets control of the finances tosses out the will and pockets what they feel they deserve, which is usually everything. When other family members go to a lawyer they are told there is likely no way to recoup the lost money and anyhow the estate isn't/wasn't large enough to justify the legal fees to try, even though the estate may have originally been substantial indeed. Executor flake-out is another common scenario.

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by celia » Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:10 am

I'd first get a copy of Nolo Press estate planning books like this. Then both of you should read it to become familiar with the legal terminology, what decisions need to be made, and what the process is. Then when you get legal assistance, you will save time (which equals billable hours) and understand the process better.

Go to a lawyer that specializes in estate planning. I wouldn't go to a generic lawyer who doesn't draw up wills and trusts every day since he will be re-learning what an estate lawyer already knows.
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Default User BR » Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:32 pm

Mrs.Feeley wrote:She said that in her 30+ years of estate-only legal practice she had never once encountered an estate in which both spouses died simultaneously. The odds of it happening are extremely slim unless both are on a plane that goes down.
An automobile accident would be far more likely.


Brian

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mas
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by mas » Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:44 pm

BigFoot48 wrote:WillMaker will do an excellent job for the two wills you need to create.
I used WillMaker as well. It seemed to do a good job, but I haven't actually tested the probate process yet. I'll post back to this thread upon my passing. :wink:
Last edited by mas on Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by shmidds » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:58 pm

My wife and I used US Legal Forms since the template was state specific. About six months later we went to an estate attorney who reviewed the wills and made some minor changes. Well worth it for peace of mind.

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Lieutenant.Columbo » Sat Sep 24, 2016 7:33 pm

PaddyMac wrote:... I remember Suze Orman always saying that "minors cannot inherit money" so you need a trust, not a will.
BUMPING THREAD to ask a relevant question:

so, does that mean that, AS FAR AS CHILDREN IS CONCERNED, a Trust is Not Necessary/Helpful (and a Will is Enough) once children are Not minors?
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by CAsage » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:31 pm

I used Nolo Press Willmaker, and it's perfectly fine, frugal, cheap. Without a lot of assets, a Living Trust (which will undoubtedly be out of date when your children grow up, or you acquire more assets, and then it has to be redone) is not needed at this time. What you really need (in my opinion) is just a plain will that says that everything goes to your children - and far more important - who their guardian will be if you both pass. It's very unlikely, but a big deal if it happens! In my opinion (and I've done this myself) a straightforward will naming your executor and your children's guardian will let you sleep nights. If you have enough money to worry about (in the future...) then get some of the excellent Nolo Press books on Estate planning (they have several) and sort out what you need to set up. Living Trusts are awesome for passing property - primarily real estate - without suffering through probate. Everything else can be set up for free as either beneficiary (insurance, IRA, 401k) or Transfer on Death/ Pay on Death (cars, savings accounts, checking...Vanguard accounts!) . With a modest estate, consider leaving the money to whoever will care for your children - and don't forget they would get SS !
And you get your own will - it's one per person!
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Lieutenant.Columbo » Sun Sep 25, 2016 5:21 am

CAsage wrote:Living Trusts are awesome for passing property - primarily real estate - without suffering through probate
doesn't a Will also help passing Real Estate property without Probate?
if not, would you mind explaining why?
thank you very much
Last edited by Lieutenant.Columbo on Sun Sep 25, 2016 5:23 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by HoosierJim » Sun Sep 25, 2016 5:22 am

CAsage wrote: Living Trusts are awesome for passing property - primarily real estate - without suffering through probate. Everything else can be set up for free as either beneficiary (insurance, IRA, 401k) or Transfer on Death/ Pay on Death (cars, savings accounts, checking...Vanguard accounts!) .
Recently found that many states now have TRANSFER ON DEATH deeds for real estate too.

All the tools CAsage mentioned plus the the real estate transfers just leaves my golf clubs for the probate court and attorneys. Maybe the court can take the 9 iron and the attorney the other clubs. Done.

Recently heard of a small simple estate go through probate and the net expenses were about 8% of the estate. All which could have been avoided.

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Lieutenant.Columbo
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Lieutenant.Columbo » Sun Sep 25, 2016 5:27 am

HoosierJim wrote:Recently found that many states now have TRANSFER ON DEATH deeds for real estate too
this is very interesting!
who does one file or record such RE TOD deed with?
thank you!
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by nisiprius » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:42 am

In my opinion, having a lawyer draw up a will is pretty frugal. They don't really charge all that much. The will you draw up yourself may be "legal," but it might cost your heirs thousands of dollars in legal fees to explain to New York State Surrogate's Court why is is "legal." I picked that court because some members of my extended family encountered a situation like this, and New York State is famously picky about wills.

A very important point to remember is that estate law is state law and different in every state. The differences can be very big. I can't quite believe that a one-size-fits-all self-help form can be a comfortable fit for every state.

As to whether any of this makes sense or whether it's a racket to enrich lawyers, I couldn't say. A little of each, perhaps. In any case, it's the way it is, just go see the darn lawyer.
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by BigFoot48 » Sun Sep 25, 2016 9:43 am

Lieutenant.Columbo wrote:
HoosierJim wrote:Recently found that many states now have TRANSFER ON DEATH deeds for real estate too
this is very interesting!
who does one file or record such RE TOD deed with?
thank you!
I did such a deed when my father-in-law died and his wife became the home owner with their sole child, my wife, the ultimate beneficiary. The form was filed with the Maricopa Arizona county recorder via a kiosk with video/fax capabilities at the local library. Article on AZ law: http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/bu ... /26023003/
A Beneficiary Deed is a type of real estate transfer deed that takes effect upon the death of the property owner. It must be recorded in the county where the property is located while the property owner is still alive.

The primary reason for using a Beneficiary Deed is to avoid probate when the owner dies. Probate is the court-supervised process of transferring assets from a deceased person to the persons who inherit. The need for a probate action to transfer a property upon death is eliminated if a Beneficiary Deed was recorded prior to the property owner’s death.

It should be noted that property held as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” or “community property with right of survivorship” will not be subject to probate if one of the owners dies. Probate only occurs when the last remaining owner dies. Thus, it is possible to add a Beneficiary Deed to jointly owned property, but it would not be effective until the death of the last remaining owner.
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Earl Lemongrab
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:00 pm

CAsage wrote:I used Nolo Press Willmaker, and it's perfectly fine, frugal, cheap. Without a lot of assets, a Living Trust (which will undoubtedly be out of date when your children grow up, or you acquire more assets, and then it has to be redone) is not needed at this time.
A trust doesn't need to be redone every time you acquire assets (or dispose of them). They wouldn't be much use if that were the case. The key is the titling of the assets in the name of the trust. Then for those assets, the trust will direct selling and distributing (most likely).

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:05 pm

Lieutenant.Columbo wrote:doesn't a Will also help passing Real Estate property without Probate?
Well, no. What do you think "probate" is? It's probating the will.

Earl
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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by HoosierJim » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:18 pm

Forgot to mention - in Indiana - there is also a personal property TOD (transfer on death). Friend related a story where a mentally foggy dying grandfather promised over the period of one year, that each grand child would receive his prize antique car. Lots of hard feelings after the funeral that would have not occured with personal property transfer (or will)


As mentioned by somebody else in a previous thread, TOD may not accomplish your goals. For example if you want each of your children's families to share in the proceeds of your estate, you do a TOD to child 1, 2 and 3 in 2016 but child 2 dies while with his dad in a car accident & dad lingers for a few days. Property goes to child 1 & 3.

Another downside to TOD is that you can't murder the family member to obtain ownership of the property via TOD(there is an exclusion for this but maybe not in your state)
Last edited by HoosierJim on Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:19 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Best Frugal Way to Create a Will

Post by savemorelivebetter » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:21 pm

SP-diceman wrote:I’ve heard good things about Legalzoom from others, but never used it myself.



Thanks
SP-diceman
I have not done a will with them but based on my experience with them on a rental lease, I would stay far away! I'm not a lawyer and I'm all for low cost technology to do mt mundane stuff like this but I do not have confidence that they have your interests at heart. If you're a homeowner renting out a home, thats definitely the case.

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