Author Topic: Preparing a will: software or attorney?  (Read 3096 times)

naners

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Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« on: February 21, 2016, 06:54:13 AM »
Now that we are expecting, DH and I are thinking about getting a will prepared. I don't know much about the process, but off the top of my head I can't think of any reason why our situation would be especially complicated. What do people think about using some kind of software vs paying an attorney? We live in NYC in case that's a factor.

Thanks!

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2016, 07:24:46 AM »
My personal opinion is that a good attorney can be worth it when it comes to wills/living wills.  Unlike investing, I think a personal touch when creating a will is important.  If your situation is simple, like you stated, and you would prefer to stick to a smaller budget, then software is better than nothing.

Zaga

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2016, 08:08:24 AM »
I'd like to hear thoughts on this as well, we really need to get wills in place.  No kids, very simple situation other than the fact that the house was his before marriage.  I would hate to lose my house if he were to pass away, his family would get more than half of it if we have no wills.

bridget

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2016, 10:13:04 AM »
People might think I'm biased, because I am an attorney (although not a trusts & estates attorney), but I don't think anybody should EVER use software. In my city, a simple will and trust costs around $1,000. (Side note - legal fees in NYC are through the roof because it costs so much in overhead to have a practice there. Find a reputable T&E attorney who will do the basic documents for a flat fee that is outside of the city [but licensed in New York]). It can easily cost $100k to put an estate through probate if something about the will is creates an unforeseen problem, significantly draining the assets of the estate (in most states, legal fees get taken out first). Even a little problem that needs to be ironed out by lawyers will almost INSTANTLY surpass the $1,000 you could have paid at the outset. It is worth it to pay for it. Your situation may be simple now, but good T&E attorneys have a lot of well-tested language that holds up in court, as well as tax strategies and other future considerations you may not be aware of (adoption? death of a child? child not able to take care of herself [addiction issues, accidents, the like]?) that make an estate plan MUCH more future-proof.

cheddarpie

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2016, 12:00:16 PM »
Agreed, absolutely worth it to hire an attorney. I am one, and still wouldn't do it myself because it's such a nuanced area of law. My mom was an estate attorney and saw so many disasters after the fact when people died without good documents in place. The last thing you want in that situation is a bureaucratic nightmare on top of your grief.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2016, 12:04:46 PM »
Assuming that you are fine with the other spouse getting everything, are there any reasons to have a will at all if there are no children, everything is owned jointly, and the other spouse is the beneficiary on the retirement accounts?

iris lily

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2016, 12:12:21 PM »
There is no way I would fail to  use an attorney if I had a chld in the mix.

We didnt have a will and are  now getting one put together, using an attorney. We had no children and so it only weighed on me a little bit that we didn't have a will. Getting all of it set up is a pain in the ass, but I knew it would be, thats why I waited until I retired, I didnt want to goof with it.

I dont mind the cost of it, $2000 to $2500 for attorney plus filing fees. I DO resent the time it takes. But I dont want to turn othrs off needlessly, we are setting up a trust and every financial instument we have needs to be updated. We have assets in many buckets, too damn many.


sol

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2016, 12:13:30 PM »
We paid a local attorney about $1000 for our will, including a trust for our estate should we both die with minor children.  In retrospect, I don't think it was worth it.

Comparing the language of our document to the language the software wills generate makes it clear that the software is written by actual attorneys.  There may be differences I can't see, but if there are they are not apparent.

Our attorney was patient and seemed knowledgeable, but he clearly didn't actually do anything on our will except ask his Secretary to insert our names and information into the blanks.  When checking over the documents, we found a bunch of mistakes that suggested we were just reading a standardized form with the blanks filled in, not a document customized for us in any way.  For example, my wife's will and my will were identical except for the name, which means I was leaving all of my assets to my husband and there were like 20 pronoun mistakes for the gender discrepancy. 

So if you're intelligent enough to answer the software's questions intelligently, and you already know what it is you want, then I think the software is fine.  It's been proven legally defensible in multiple states by now.  You still have to print out hard copies and have them witnesses and archived, which was included in our attorney fee, but that certainly doesn't cost $1000.

Assuming that you are fine with the other spouse getting everything, are there any reasons to have a will at all if there are no children, everything is owned jointly, and the other spouse is the beneficiary on the retirement accounts?

What if you both die in an accident?  I've been through this process several times with my family already and I think the will is almost useless when there is one surviving spouse.  But eventually that second person will also die, and that's when the paperwork comes into play.

naners

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2016, 02:41:32 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions so far everyone: leaning toward the attorney route. In case it wasn't clear from my first post, we are expecting a child so that's why the will is happening.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2016, 02:49:09 PM »
No idea whether you might have access to this, but my employer offers pre-paid legal. By signing up for one year of pre-paid legal at a cost of $189, I got a full-fledged will made with guardianship, contingent trust, living will, the whole nine yards at no additional cost. Might be worth looking into. Congrats on new baby! And kudos for getting this done promptly. Our oldest was 5 by the time we signed our wills.

cheddarpie

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Re: Preparing a will: software or attorney?
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2016, 07:25:51 PM »
Sounds like Sol had a bad attorney -- no doubt they exist. :)

I would recommend looking at ACTEC (www.actec.org) for someone in your area, or go with a recommendation from a friend. Good attorneys may cost a little more, but will be worth it. Depending on your situation, someone who really knows what they're doing may be able to offer suggestions you wouldn't have even known to ask about in terms of taxes, long-term planning, etc.

I agree with others, if there is a kid in the mix, no question you want do have this all nailed down. The hope is of course that nothing bad ever happens, but you want it as good as it can be if it does -- it's like insurance in that way, cross your fingers that it is money wasted.

If you don't have kids and don't intend to, it's not as critical, but there's always the "both die at the same time" and other doomsday scenarios. In that case, I think the forms are more acceptable, but I would still talk to an attorney to at least understand what you are signing. State laws vary a great deal on these questions and estate/property law is the most archaic, confusing, and complicated area of law. Words do not mean what you think they mean and even the slightest turn of phrase can completely change how your wishes are interpreted.