Author Topic: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will  (Read 3096 times)

meteor

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Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« on: November 29, 2018, 05:39:34 PM »
I've paid a lot of money over time to have my will done and redone because my preferences change every few years.  I got tired of paying lawyers for what is just a few pages of text, and I decided to just start doing it myself (I have no kids, no cars, and no complications). Recently I decided to update it on my own and called several lawyers to see if I could just "buy consulting time" to have them look it over to make sure I didn't do something really stupid.  They all refused.  They tried to put the fear of God in me that I need a lawyer to do the entire will for a minimum of $900, and pushed me to consider a trust (way more expensive) with a list of things I should worry about. The only thing I'm worried about is all the stress they give me.  Nothing terrible will happen if my money ends up in probate.  No one is depending on it, and I'm really tired of the legal-fear sales pitch and high fees. Your Thoughts?
« Last Edit: November 29, 2018, 05:51:02 PM by meteor »

Mr. Green

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2018, 06:25:09 PM »
Sounds like you called some asshole lawyers. Keep calling. You'll find someone reasonable. Your will was already based on something a lawyer did in the first place. It's not like you're asking them to read the crayon you wrote on the back of a napkin.

reeshau

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2018, 03:02:29 AM »
Two other perspectives to consider:

My law professor from my MBA program put it this way: "lawyers are paid for what they know, not what they do." In other words, the value you get is not only from the assurance that it's done "right," but also that it should take less time than you doing it--not just writing it, but researching, filing with the state if needed, and backup support if and when it does come into force.  It's the avoidance of your time and hassle more than their sweat equity.

Another perspective:  estate law, like insurance, is something many people avoid.  It's a hard sell; people either aren't interested, have other priorities, or find it distasteful.  So, practicing in this area requires a lot of marketing time and expense.  The cost, then, for those who do get it has to incorporate all this non-revenue time.  You are paying for all the people who they meet with, and then say no.

I am not an attorney. (or even an insurance salesman)  The costs drive me nuts, too, but you can only control your own reaction.  I provide these perspectives in the hope that you think of these services as businesses, not just a trade you are hiring hourly.  This said, you certainly have the right to direct / minimize the work you are asking of them; just understand that they typically deal with people who have no idea what the process is--it may take some time for them to figure out that yours is an informed decision.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2018, 03:44:42 AM »
Sounds like you called some asshole lawyers. Keep calling. You'll find someone reasonable. Your will was already based on something a lawyer did in the first place. It's not like you're asking them to read the crayon you wrote on the back of a napkin.


This^+1 .  There is good and bad in every industry but find some small local guy or ask around. Sure you will find someone that will appreciate the business as well as think if i do this for the person they will come back to me with other stuff. Its not rocket science law if you have no complicated things. Good luck

coppertop

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2018, 08:14:01 AM »
I was an estate administrator at a law firm for 11 years. I cannot imagine any of the attorneys I worked with refusing to sit down with someone to go over their holographic will.  Fees are fees, after all, and there is a lot of competition out there for clients.  Keep looking.  There is some hungry young attorney out there who will be happy to help you.

Freedomin5

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2018, 08:18:01 AM »
If you previously had a lawyer write up your will and only changed a few things, why canít you Justin have the lawyer who originally did your will look over your changes?

Nickel

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2018, 02:55:19 PM »
You should be able to find an attorney.  Keep looking.  The following is not legal advice, so take it for what it is worth:

Wills are pretty simple.  You probably did fine.  Just make it clear what goes where and keep it updated.

Although the law in different states can vary, the most important thing is to have two disinterested witnesses sign it, and if possible create a "self-proving" will to make it easy on your executor (get the signatures notarized).

Also, make sure you have a residual clause (who gets all the stuff you didn't cover), and make sure that your executor can find the original will.  And as a back up plan, make copies with a new original signature/date authenticating each copy.

Finally, try to avoid probate for as many assets as possible by naming beneficiaries in bank/retirement accounts and holding property jointly with right of survivorship.


TomTX

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2018, 03:56:35 PM »
I've paid a lot of money over time to have my will done and redone because my preferences change every few years.  I got tired of paying lawyers for what is just a few pages of text, and I decided to just start doing it myself (I have no kids, no cars, and no complications). Recently I decided to update it on my own and called several lawyers to see if I could just "buy consulting time" to have them look it over to make sure I didn't do something really stupid.  They all refused.  They tried to put the fear of God in me that I need a lawyer to do the entire will for a minimum of $900, and pushed me to consider a trust (way more expensive) with a list of things I should worry about. The only thing I'm worried about is all the stress they give me.  Nothing terrible will happen if my money ends up in probate.  No one is depending on it, and I'm really tired of the legal-fear sales pitch and high fees. Your Thoughts?

Be nice to your executor and beneficiaries and have most of your assets bypass probate - just use the will as a catchall for leftovers.

This also lets you make major changes in how assets will be allocated without changing your will.

Almost any account (investment, checking, savings, whatever)  has a way to designate a "transfer on death" beneficiary. You don't need a lawyer in the slightest and you can update it as you like (subject to the requirements of the bank/firm).

JoJoP

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2018, 09:07:12 PM »
What about an online service like Legal Zoom, Nolo Press, RocketLawyer or Suze Orman?  They take you through step by step.
 It's less than $200 and you should be able to write codicils to change the provisions as you see fit. 

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2018, 09:39:13 PM »
Trusts and estates law is pretty complex and varies by state.  One personís view on this forum may be totally different from anotherís because their states are totally different. Lawyers do not want to review your will because you prepared it and theyíre afraid theyíll miss something in your will that is covered in their own standard form. Itís a malpractice risk for them and earning next to nothing for accepting that risk is probably not worth it. 

Also, itís possible that they do not believe they can ethically be your lawyer in that fashion. Lawyer ethics rules burdensome in some crazy ways.

meteor

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2018, 10:04:41 PM »
Quote
Be nice to your executor and beneficiaries and have most of your assets bypass probate - just use the will as a catchall for leftovers.

This also lets you make major changes in how assets will be allocated without changing your will.

Almost any account (investment, checking, savings, whatever)  has a way to designate a "transfer on death" beneficiary. You don't need a lawyer in the slightest and you can update it as you like (subject to the requirements of the bank/firm).

TOMTXT - That's a great idea!  Are you saying to just to assign different beneficiaries to different accounts ?  And then maybe use the will for leftovers like clothes, etc?  And then make a list on the will where all the accounts are , so the  executor knows where the money is and how to contact them?  That's a genius idea.  Then I can just keep everything out of a will and just make accounts for people instead to be transferred on death.

TomTX

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2018, 06:04:42 AM »
Quote
Be nice to your executor and beneficiaries and have most of your assets bypass probate - just use the will as a catchall for leftovers.

This also lets you make major changes in how assets will be allocated without changing your will.

Almost any account (investment, checking, savings, whatever)  has a way to designate a "transfer on death" beneficiary. You don't need a lawyer in the slightest and you can update it as you like (subject to the requirements of the bank/firm).

TOMTXT - That's a great idea!  Are you saying to just to assign different beneficiaries to different accounts ?  And then maybe use the will for leftovers like clothes, etc?  And then make a list on the will where all the accounts are , so the  executor knows where the money is and how to contact them?  That's a genius idea.  Then I can just keep everything out of a will and just make accounts for people instead to be transferred on death.

Not sure about the listing them in the will part (I guess it could be a list of excluded assets - ask a lawyer) but you could certainly paper clip a list to the will for the executor to find ;)

But yes, just assign different beneficiaries for different accounts, using whatever form that bank/firm/whatever has. Done properly, this lets the asset go directly to the beneficiary, bypassing the whole will/probate hassle. In Florida (where my parents are) - lawyers are mandatory for probate, and are paid a percentage of assets. For example, for a million dollar estate (even if it's a single account) - the lawyer rakes in $30k.

Typically a will has a "residual clause" -  to someone like me (non lawyer) that's a catchall "anything I forgot, gets distributed to this way to beneficiary/beneficiaries"

Again, just my layman's understanding. But it's what I've done and my parents have done. All the accounts have a beneficiary, and typically a contingent beneficiary (someone who inherits if the primary beneficiary is dead or refuses the account.)

Linda_Norway

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2018, 07:44:55 AM »
Do you really need a laywer? You say you have an uncomlplicated will. Here in Norway it is enough to write your own will and let to independent people sign it, with name and address. Then it is valid. There are examples available. You already have an example from your earlier version. Can't you just check on the internet what is required to make the will legal?

FIREby35

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2018, 09:13:15 AM »
I would bet lawyers don't want to do it because it is not worth their time. Also, it DOES create a malpractice risk. Generous lawyers will talk to you and give information. They will not take your homemade product and put their stamp of approval on it for peanuts/free.

A couple thoughts from an attorney:

1) A residual clause is not for your clothes/personal items. When you die, that will mostly be trash that gets thrown away. It's for assets that you accumulate that were not specifically designated and actually have a value. Most personal items have value only if sold at an estate sale at steep price discounts. I usually see that with wealthy materialist consumer types who leave behind all kinds of "treasures." Go to an estate sale of one of those people to see what I mean - and snag some great deals :)

2) The idea that going to probate is "not so bad" and your surviving relatives' problem not worth your money (which you already know you are not going be able to spend) is exactly why you aren't a good prospective client for a wills and trust attorney. Some of those attorney's might be full of it, but I know for a fact that an experienced probate attorney has seen family fights that left permanent negative feelings of resentment, distrust and greed within a family. Those fights play out repeatedly because of this exact attitude and the unwillingness of the recently departed to spend $1,000 to avoid it. Consider the gift you leave behind and remember your attitude about money as a mustachian is very rare.  Others will fight over scraps and attorneys see it every day.

 
« Last Edit: December 01, 2018, 09:34:57 AM by FIREby35 »

FIREby35

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2018, 09:32:44 AM »
PS Sorry if I sound harsh. But, rejecting the advice of multiple attorneys as fear mongering while claiming mustachian-level assets "aren't much" rings alarm bells for me. You might be underestimating your level of wealth and the shenanigans that people who don't have money will engage in to get it after you are gone.

TomTX

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2018, 10:48:13 AM »
PS Sorry if I sound harsh. But, rejecting the advice of multiple attorneys as fear mongering while claiming mustachian-level assets "aren't much" rings alarm bells for me. You might be underestimating your level of wealth and the shenanigans that people who don't have money will engage in to get it after you are gone.

Your input is good, and appreciated.

Personally, I did a plug-and-chug will using the state-specific template provided by the EAP legal service through work, and two non-related, non-benefiting witnesses. Other than the house and contents, ~95% of assets have beneficiaries set up (wife), and ~85% have a contingent beneficiary.

Much Fishing to Do

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2018, 01:57:15 PM »
I didn't do wills but so much of what I did as an attorney was a balance of is the return worth the balance of the malpractice risk.  If I'm going to be offered $100 to spend 5 minutes to do something, that very well is worth my time...but not worth the risk of a malpractice claim, especially when my primary defense against getting a malpractice claim brought against me is having a tried and true process/product that I know I can count on but not being able to use that and instead just saying someone else's work is "good enough".

That said I always thought I was much more paranoid than most, I'm surprised you couldn't find anyone.

FIREby35

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2018, 08:23:19 PM »
PS Sorry if I sound harsh. But, rejecting the advice of multiple attorneys as fear mongering while claiming mustachian-level assets "aren't much" rings alarm bells for me. You might be underestimating your level of wealth and the shenanigans that people who don't have money will engage in to get it after you are gone.

Your input is good, and appreciated.

Personally, I did a plug-and-chug will using the state-specific template provided by the EAP legal service through work, and two non-related, non-benefiting witnesses. Other than the house and contents, ~95% of assets have beneficiaries set up (wife), and ~85% have a contingent beneficiary.

I do agree it can be done individually, btw. It's like discovering the logic of an index fund from the sea of information and disinformation about investing. Really, its fundamentally just as simple: Most anything you write down, if it is authenticated, will be very helpful.

Shane

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2018, 08:51:25 PM »
+1 to the suggestions above to set up as many of your accounts as possible to bypass probate and automatically transfer on death (TOD). If you designate beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and set up your taxable accounts to TOD, that should take care of most assets besides real estate.

Try googling, "intestate succession," followed by the name of the state where you live. It's fairly easy to find out what your state will do with any assets that have to go through probate. If you're happy with the intestate succession laws in your state, then there's really not much reason to have a will, assuming you've got the majority of your assets set up to bypass probate anyway...

Gremlin

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2018, 04:25:12 PM »
I must admit I have some sympathy for the lawyers here.

I'm not a lawyer, but in my previous career I had a professional services role.  At one stage I did work that didn't necessarily require my skill set to do.  In a lot of "vanilla" cases people could, and would, do it themselves.  I'd get several requests just to "sign off" on the work that they'd done themselves.  I'd almost always refuse.

The issue was that although roughly 75% of the time they'd done it correctly, in the 25% of times that they hadn't the cost to rectify their mistakes would often be a lot more than if I'd done it from scratch initially.  They often didn't know what they didn't know, so almost certainly underestimated the impact the "didn't knows" would have.  And you would be dealing with people who were expecting a much lower cost because "they'd done the bulk of the work themselves".  Plus I'd be on the hook for the full cost of any malpractice issue.  Almost never worth it.

WalkaboutStache

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2018, 08:29:40 PM »
@FIREby35 had the right technical standpoint, so I'll just add the analogy:

Imagine that you build a house yourself, and then ask a general contractor to sign off on the construction so that you can get the final permit from the city.  Let’s say that the city allows self-built structures, but you do need the contractor sign off.  If this doesn’t sound plausible, substitute electrician, structural engineer, or whatever else works for general contractor.

They quote you their fee for a top to bottom inspection, from the building plans to the last shingle hung.  You are understandably suspicious because you got the plans from a reputable website, maybe even had other tradespeople sign off on other aspects of the build, and all you really did was change a thing here and there.

The problem is that if the tradesperson is going to sign off in their professional capacity, they need to carry out a top to bottom review.  They do not know what might be hiding in plain sight.  There may be something that makes absolute sense, but that is not up to code and they could get in trouble if they sign off on that.

That is why attorneys have a minimum.  In fact, since you may be using a form there are not familiar with, your will may even be more difficult to review because they don’t know if all of its provisions work well together.  They’ll need to read the thing with a view towards enforceability (and there may be some research needed here), internal consistency, and probably some other issues that only probate attorneys would look at.

The best advice to control the costs related to this may be to get good advice on your first draft, and change it sparingly (or ask for your attorney to draft something that makes it easy for you to add, remove, and shuffle assets around – this will probably cost a bit more because s/he will need to make the changes idiot-proof layman-proof).
« Last Edit: December 02, 2018, 08:32:17 PM by WalkaboutStache »

Car Jack

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #21 on: December 08, 2018, 04:21:00 PM »
I have a couple thoughts on this.

First, I'm picturing that an attorney has a well thought out list of things to go over with the client in a logical order.  He goes through and can figure out if a whole section doesn't apply.  Then on to the next.  His form covers everything possible.

Say it takes 90 minutes to go through the form and then his computer simply prints out the will.  You pay for 90 minutes of his time.

If you bring in your will, it's much more difficult for him and time consuming for him to search all the possible things that might or might not be needed.  Think that maybe it takes him 4 hours.

So at $400 an hour, the first option may cost you $600.  The second costs $1600.  Having gone through this explanation with clients too many times, resulting in never getting the business, he's simply telling you "no" to save you and him time.


My second thought is that it sounds exceedingly simple.  Why do you think you even need a will?  Where to assets go if you have no will?  Are they already designated where they'll go?  What's state law say?  I'm asking this because my life is far more complicated with kids than yours, yet I've done the above and researched state law.  The results being that I don't need, nor have a will.

travelawyer

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #22 on: December 11, 2018, 11:57:03 AM »
I'm a lawyer and I've prepared a few pro bono wills (obviously not mustachian assets).  If you are correct that your estate is uncomplicated (and if your beneficiaries are not litigious) your self-drafted will should be fine. 

The basics of a will are not complicated, and as long as you get the proper witnesses, even just a list of names next to items would count (e.g. "Joe gets my house. Jane gets my car.").  Whoever said that the residual doesn't cover clothes and household items is incorrect, all that is part of the residual estate unless you separately gifted it elsewhere in the will (say you gave Joe your house "and all its contents" or you gave Jane your shoe collection).  Estate sales exist because whoever the beneficiary was didn't want the stuff (nothing wrong with that) or the residual was split between multiple people and they decided it would be easier to divide up money than stuff.

The other big decision you usually have to make in a will is "substitutions."  So say you want to divide your estate between your 3 children.  If one of your children dies first, does it get split between the other two, or does 1/3 go to the children of the kid who died? Or if there are 2 grandchildren, does 1/4 go to each child and 1/4 to each grandchild? Do adopted children or grandchildren count the same as natural? There's special "will language" for all this stuff, but if you use plain language it will be honored. 

Speaking of children, your will should also address your custody wishes.

If you are oversimplifying, and your estate or family structure is actually more complicated, just pay the lawyer. 

Also, this is totally not legal advice.

FIREby35

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2018, 01:14:14 PM »
I'm a lawyer and I've prepared a few pro bono wills (obviously not mustachian assets).  If you are correct that your estate is uncomplicated (and if your beneficiaries are not litigious) your self-drafted will should be fine. 

The basics of a will are not complicated, and as long as you get the proper witnesses, even just a list of names next to items would count (e.g. "Joe gets my house. Jane gets my car.").  Whoever said that the residual doesn't cover clothes and household items is incorrect, all that is part of the residual estate unless you separately gifted it elsewhere in the will (say you gave Joe your house "and all its contents" or you gave Jane your shoe collection).  Estate sales exist because whoever the beneficiary was didn't want the stuff (nothing wrong with that) or the residual was split between multiple people and they decided it would be easier to divide up money than stuff.

The other big decision you usually have to make in a will is "substitutions."  So say you want to divide your estate between your 3 children.  If one of your children dies first, does it get split between the other two, or does 1/3 go to the children of the kid who died? Or if there are 2 grandchildren, does 1/4 go to each child and 1/4 to each grandchild? Do adopted children or grandchildren count the same as natural? There's special "will language" for all this stuff, but if you use plain language it will be honored. 

Speaking of children, your will should also address your custody wishes.

If you are oversimplifying, and your estate or family structure is actually more complicated, just pay the lawyer. 

Also, this is totally not legal advice.

I didn't re-read what I wrote originally, so maybe my language wasn't that clear. Either way, its not that a residual clause doesn't cover clothes. It's that clothes of the deceased are almost always trash. In the event there are personal items of any value an estate sale happens. But, most people greatly over estimate the value of their personal belongings and for a person with investment accounts, a home or other valuable assets the proceeds of an estate sale will likely be relatively small and meaningless. A residual clause should be thought of as disposing of any assets of true value that might accumulate after a will is created. For example, a car, RV or investment account that was purchased/created after the will in question and, therefore, was not covered in the original designation. Worrying about who gets your clothes and personal property is letting the tail wag the dog.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2018, 01:17:46 PM by FIREby35 »

JoJoP

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2018, 07:31:39 PM »
Kudos to everyone who has gotten as far as writing out a will (or trust).  So many people go in circles trying to decide the whos and whats, that it never actually gets written down and they die intestate.

LilyFleur

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2019, 11:36:47 AM »
I did my will through NOLO. It includes lots of important things (some need notarization) including medical power of attorney, advance healthcare wishes, financial power of attorney. The software walks you through the process, and there is a phone number to call if you have questions.

I have my children listed as beneficiaries on all of my accounts.

Through NOLO, I learned about Transfer on Death (TOD) deeds. You can put the name of whoever you want to inherit your house on a TOD deed and completely avoid probate. You can also have a TOD on your car.

So I got it done for very little cost, just some time and effort. No trust required.

BTDretire

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #26 on: January 04, 2019, 05:47:14 PM »
I've paid a lot of money over time to have my will done and redone because my preferences change every few years.  I got tired of paying lawyers for what is just a few pages of text, and I decided to just start doing it myself (I have no kids, no cars, and no complications). Recently I decided to update it on my own and called several lawyers to see if I could just "buy consulting time" to have them look it over to make sure I didn't do something really stupid.  They all refused.  They tried to put the fear of God in me that I need a lawyer to do the entire will for a minimum of $900, and pushed me to consider a trust (way more expensive) with a list of things I should worry about. The only thing I'm worried about is all the stress they give me.  Nothing terrible will happen if my money ends up in probate.  No one is depending on it, and I'm really tired of the legal-fear sales pitch and high fees. Your Thoughts?

Be nice to your executor and beneficiaries and have most of your assets bypass probate - just use the will as a catchall for leftovers.

This also lets you make major changes in how assets will be allocated without changing your will.

Almost any account (investment, checking, savings, whatever)  has a way to designate a "transfer on death" beneficiary. You don't need a lawyer in the slightest and you can update it as you like (subject to the requirements of the bank/firm).

 I recently had a trust made (to help avoid probate) by an attorney $2,100. I'm now in the process of changing accounts over into the trusts name, I've spent about 7 hours over the last 2 days on just 3 accounts. I don't think the bankers are used to doing the switch. Vanguard was not to bad, but I need phone help, and I'm only partially done.
 I closed down my TD Ameritrade account just to eliminate one more account.
I recommend you never open a TD Amertrade account, they charge $75 to close the account.

Plina

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Re: Lawyers refuse to review my do-it-yourself will
« Reply #27 on: January 07, 2019, 04:34:35 AM »


The issue was that although roughly 75% of the time they'd done it correctly, in the 25% of times that they hadn't the cost to rectify their mistakes would often be a lot more than if I'd done it from scratch initially.  They often didn't know what they didn't know, so almost certainly underestimated the impact the "didn't knows" would have.  And you would be dealing with people who were expecting a much lower cost because "they'd done the bulk of the work themselves".  Plus I'd be on the hook for the full cost of any malpractice issue.  Almost never worth it.

This! I often have professional clients that want to save money or learn to do it themselves. If they are not really good they often end up spending more then if I or we would have done the whole thing.