Author Topic: Did you use an attorney for your will?  (Read 6221 times)

LizzyBee

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Did you use an attorney for your will?
« on: September 30, 2015, 05:56:55 PM »
My DH and I have been meaning to create a will since our son was born. He's now 3 and we have a 3 month old daughter now. We've put it off long enough, but I feel overwhelmed. Do I need an attorney or can we use an online program and do it ourselves? I'm worried about the online versions not being very official. I also have no knowledge around how to create a will, but our situation is fairly simple (I think). We live in Colorado, if that makes a difference. 

firewalker

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2015, 06:33:24 PM »
Good question. I read that it is easy to do on your own, but I have never known anyone to have actually done it.

Uturn

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2015, 06:44:29 PM »
I think a better question is "has anyone ever executed a DIY will?"  I would think the writing is the easy part, dealing with greedy family around a DIY will is the hard part. 

cheddarpie

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2015, 07:07:37 PM »
I think a better question is "has anyone ever executed a DIY will?"  I would think the writing is the easy part, dealing with greedy family around a DIY will is the hard part.

Exactly. I am an attorney (not in this field) and wouldn't feel comfortable with a DIY will myself, nor do I know any other attorneys who have done this themselves unless it's their area of expertise. I think this is one of those times where it's definitely worth hiring an expert, especially when you have a kid. And yes, absolutely, get a will -- the laws can get pretty wacky around what happens when you die without one and the last thing your family needs is a legal headache on top of losing you. It's no fun to think about, but one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones.

crazy30

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2015, 07:32:39 PM »
We just had our estate planning. It was over 1k usd but it was like 3 encyclopedias with all the details you need. It took 1.5 hours to discuss and 1.5hours to have it explained to u. What I learned is that the will actually goes on probate if something happens to you or husband/wife. Probate has fees so trust will ensure that you can avoid it.

pbkmaine

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2015, 07:52:11 PM »
A friend was executrix for her ex husband, who used a do-it-yourself will. It took forever to get through probate because of things like pages that had been unstapled and restapled, which apparently meant the will could have been altered. I used a trusts and estates attorney who had me in a room with three witnesses, where he went through the will with me page by page and asked me a series of questions in front of them. Everything had to be done just so. One of the witnesses was a notary. I don't think anyone is going to be overturning my will.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2015, 06:43:07 AM »
We are about to have our first child, so will have a will drawn up. (Right now we just have beneficiaries named on various accounts and figured people could fight over the rest...)

We've talked with many people who do DIY, but from what we can tell, they have very little in assets.  I think our estate would be valuable enough that we want to make sure to protect it properly for our child, so we will use a lawyer.

Scandium

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2015, 09:35:54 AM »
Discussing this before I still wasn't totally convinced why we'd need a will yet. Isn't law pretty clear? If I die my wife get everything (technically it's all "ours" already so no change really). If we both die our son get's everything. Easy enough.

Now once we get someone set up as his guardian in the event of our death things get more complicated. At that point we'll probably need one, but for now I don't see why. I mean there are no family members that could have claims to anything of ours right? I guess if all 3 of use die, but at that point I really don't care.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2015, 10:10:19 AM »
Discussing this before I still wasn't totally convinced why we'd need a will yet. Isn't law pretty clear? If I die my wife get everything (technically it's all "ours" already so no change really). If we both die our son get's everything. Easy enough.

Now once we get someone set up as his guardian in the event of our death things get more complicated. At that point we'll probably need one, but for now I don't see why. I mean there are no family members that could have claims to anything of ours right? I guess if all 3 of use die, but at that point I really don't care.

My issue with children is 1) the guardian would need some sort of 'allowance' for their expenses related to the child; the money can't just all go to the child; and 2) if the child is still under 21, I don't want them to have immediate access to millions of dollars (which, with life insurance, they would). So some of it has to be set up in trusts.

Scandium

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2015, 10:20:43 AM »
Discussing this before I still wasn't totally convinced why we'd need a will yet. Isn't law pretty clear? If I die my wife get everything (technically it's all "ours" already so no change really). If we both die our son get's everything. Easy enough.

Now once we get someone set up as his guardian in the event of our death things get more complicated. At that point we'll probably need one, but for now I don't see why. I mean there are no family members that could have claims to anything of ours right? I guess if all 3 of use die, but at that point I really don't care.

My issue with children is 1) the guardian would need some sort of 'allowance' for their expenses related to the child; the money can't just all go to the child; and 2) if the child is still under 21, I don't want them to have immediate access to millions of dollars (which, with life insurance, they would). So some of it has to be set up in trusts.

Yes the guardian thing is definitely the trickiest issue. But we haven't gotten around to asking them yet. So for now he'd be the richest kid in the foster home I guess.

The kid getting millions I'm not that concerned about. I mean, what's the worst thing that would happen, he spends it all on parties and sport cars? Well too bad, hopefully he learned something and will be fine after that. Then he'd have as much as he would have had if we were alive; zero (plus a college fund I guess)

AlwaysLearningToSave

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2015, 10:28:32 AM »
Isn't law pretty clear?

No.  No, it is not.  In some cases it can be clear, but many times it is not.  Even if the law is clear, many people do not know what the law actually says or do not want the result that is dictated by the clear law.  This is why we lawyers have jobs.

If I die my wife get everything (technically it's all "ours" already so no change really). If we both die our son get's everything. Easy enough.

Not necessarily.  It depends on how your assets are titled and the laws in your state.  In the jurisdiction where I practice, your wife would not necessarily get everything in the event of your death and your child would receive a portion of your estate.

Now once we get someone set up as his guardian in the event of our death things get more complicated. At that point we'll probably need one, but for now I don't see why. 

A will is the only way to name a guardian for your child, at least in the jurisdiction where I practice.  If you die without naming a guardian, there would need to be court proceedings to determine who is guardian.  State statutes provide a default order of priority for guardians, which may or may not be in line with your desires.  Your family could end up fighting in court over who should be the court-appointed guardian.  A conservator would also need to be appointed to manage your child's money.  This may or may not be the same person as the guardian.

If the child is still under 21, I don't want them to have immediate access to millions of dollars (which, with life insurance, they would). So some of it has to be set up in trusts.

Bingo.  It is as much about protecting the beneficiaries from themselves as it is about protecting the assets from others.  Trusts are very important when minor children are involved. 

crazy30

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2015, 11:11:03 AM »
And u would be surprised how ugly court cases could be. Like a family relative who likes to gamble or do drugs can suddenly appeal to the court that he should handle remaining assets and actually not give your children anything. Money can do
Miraculous things! With trust nobody can question your will

peeps_be_peeping

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2015, 12:09:22 PM »
Yes, I used a lawyer for my will. I used myself. I am not a trusts & estates lawyer though, and you know what they say about the lawyer who represents herself... I'd still recommend going to a real T&E lawyer, especially if you have children. Probate (the court process that happens when you die without a will) is expensive and cumbersome for your family. Why would you want them to have to do that after losing you?

TVRodriguez

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2015, 12:18:36 PM »
Isn't law pretty clear?

No.  No, it is not.  In some cases it can be clear, but many times it is not.  Even if the law is clear, many people do not know what the law actually says or do not want the result that is dictated by the clear law.  This is why we lawyers have jobs.

If I die my wife get everything (technically it's all "ours" already so no change really). If we both die our son get's everything. Easy enough.

Not necessarily.  It depends on how your assets are titled and the laws in your state.  In the jurisdiction where I practice, your wife would not necessarily get everything in the event of your death and your child would receive a portion of your estate.

Now once we get someone set up as his guardian in the event of our death things get more complicated. At that point we'll probably need one, but for now I don't see why. 

A will is the only way to name a guardian for your child, at least in the jurisdiction where I practice.  If you die without naming a guardian, there would need to be court proceedings to determine who is guardian.  State statutes provide a default order of priority for guardians, which may or may not be in line with your desires.  Your family could end up fighting in court over who should be the court-appointed guardian.  A conservator would also need to be appointed to manage your child's money.  This may or may not be the same person as the guardian.

If the child is still under 21, I don't want them to have immediate access to millions of dollars (which, with life insurance, they would). So some of it has to be set up in trusts.

Bingo.  It is as much about protecting the beneficiaries from themselves as it is about protecting the assets from others.  Trusts are very important when minor children are involved.

+1.  I'm an estate planning attorney, and I've seen dozens of DIY wills.  I've never seen one prepared correctly.  The forms themselves have been okay, if not what I use, but unless you know what you're doing, it's really really easy to mess it up.  I've also seen estate plans done by other attorneys who don't practice in this area ("favor for a friend") and that has cost the friend's family thousands of extra dollars that I could have saved them if they had come to me.

I make more money on my dead clients (people who don't prepare their estate plans with an estate planning attorney and then die) than I do on the clients who come to me while they're alive.  I am as efficient as possible, but in my state, probate simply costs more than setting things up correctly.

And it is not just about the money.  Any death in the family is a time of grief and confusion.  If you can make that time a little bit less hard for your family by making your wishes clear, by simplifying their end of the paperwork, and by cutting down on the time and hassle they'll go through, why not do it?

LizzyBee

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2015, 11:52:57 AM »
Thanks for the replies everyone! I met with a financial planner a few years back and he had recommended using just an online program for our will. Judging from the responses here, that wasn't very good advice. I definitely don't want our assets getting tied up in court.

Capsu78

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2015, 02:20:33 PM »
Yes and don't forget your medical directives... my understanding is they should be updated to current terminology even if you had them drawn up as recently as 10 years ago.
 

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #16 on: October 03, 2015, 02:30:54 PM »
We are in the midst of this. I'm filling out a giant questionnaire that I got from the lawyer and there are definitely things I would not have thought of and things I have questions about.

We're worth a lot more dead than alive right now, frankly. Our boys would draw a couple ground a month from Mr. FP's pension fund, plus we have about half a million in life insurance.

I'm relying on the lawyer to structure things like--if we die and my sister has to raise our children, she would need a new house. She's raising three kids almost paycheck-to-paycheck in a three bedroom townhouse! So I would need to make sure that she has what she needs while the kids are still protected. Etc.

What I did was sign up for one year of prepaid legal through my employer. So the whole thing is costing me about $189.

LibrarIan

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #17 on: October 03, 2015, 08:31:52 PM »
Yes and it was well worth the money. Legal stuff is one thing I will pay someone else for. The time savings and the headache I probably saved were worth it. I called a lawyer I had recommended to me, filled out some basic stuff and had it all done in a day. In fact, I got it all done over a work lunch hour. I could not have done it that fast on my own.

Astatine

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #18 on: October 03, 2015, 08:42:29 PM »
Yes, and for a power of attorney. I am absolutely adamant that none of my blood relatives will get anything from my will. I wanted my will to be as watertight as possible in that respect. We also wanted to make sure the will covered our pet cats, ie that it spelled out that one of my friends will get the cats and rehome or keep them as she sees fit (she's been involved in animal rescue for years and is adamant that all pets deserve forever homes, so she was the perfect choice for that and she agreed to it).

It's useful to get a POA. I'm working flexibly from home while going through full-on medical treatment and my workplace is happy to talk to either my DH or a friend who has POA if I'm not in a fit state to talk to HR/manager. We only got the POA a few months before my medical diagnosis - didn't think it would potentially come in handy so soon!


TVRodriguez

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2015, 11:26:37 AM »
A good estate planning attorney will prepare multiple documents for each person.  I usually do
Will
Revocable Trust  (living trust)
General Durable Power of Attorney
Living Will
Designation of Health Care Surrogate
Declaration of Preneed Guardian
Declaration of Final Instructions
Tangible Personal Property Memorandum
Deed into Revocable Trust  (for some cases, usually single persons)

Some of these are not necessary in all states. Estate planning for people who are not affected by the federal estate and gift tax is driven by state and local law. And it depends on how assets are titled and whether they are subject to probate.  In my area, avoiding probate is worthwhile, but in my old state probate was a nonissue. In that state, state estate and inheritance taxes were a big issue, whereas my current state has no state estate tax or inheritance tax.

IllusionNW

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #20 on: October 04, 2015, 11:37:35 AM »
Yes, get an attorney.  I'm an attorney myself and would still pay for a trusts and estates attorney to do the work specifically.  Each state has its own quirks, which makes online forms pretty useless.  Also, I live in a community property state, which will make things muddier if you have both community and separate property. 

Also note that if you die without a will (intestate), your state statutes govern how your assets will be passed, and the rules are often not very intuitive, so it may not be automatic that your spouse gets all your assets.  Your parents or your children may get some of your assets.

There are also a lot of fact specific nuances that you need to consider.  For example, if you have two children and help pay for one child's college but not the other, is that intended to be a gift?  Or an early disbursement of that child's portion of your estate?

People can challenge wills for a lot of reasons that you don't fully consider, and a trusts and estates attorney will know how to write a will that takes all of these into consideration.  An online will program won't be able to help you issue spot the way an qualified attorney will.

Nudelkopf

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2015, 05:54:27 PM »
Yes, I used a solicitor for my will (which was written like, last week). Mine's only 1 page long - very simple. It cost $165.

It was my Mum that kinda made me go get a will (and funnily enough, she will inherit everything... hmmm.. haha). I'm unmarried & unpartnered, so it would be Mum that'd have to deal with the crap if I died without a will - so now it's easy for her.

I dunno what the costs are, but it costs a lot to die without a will :-/

ShortInSeattle

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #22 on: October 04, 2015, 06:22:58 PM »
Yes, and it was worthwhile. We wanted to set up a revocable trust so our assets won't be handed out, instead they'll be grown and used to pay for college expenses for our youngest relatives. With that kind of document there is no need to put money in trust now, it occurs after your death.

Plus updating our POAs and so on, it was useful.

SIS

Tjat

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #23 on: October 04, 2015, 07:25:31 PM »
Any suggestions for how one finds a good T&E attorney? My fear is I'll find a leach that resembles some sort of financial advisor that tries to sell me a bunch of crappy overpriced products/services. Any warning signs to be aware of? Or is this field typically fee-based and consultative?

Astatine

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #24 on: October 04, 2015, 07:46:15 PM »
Any suggestions for how one finds a good T&E attorney? My fear is I'll find a leach that resembles some sort of financial advisor that tries to sell me a bunch of crappy overpriced products/services. Any warning signs to be aware of? Or is this field typically fee-based and consultative?

Word of mouth? Ask around in your various social circles if anyone's had a will done recently and how they thought it went?

Gizsuat2

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Re: Did you use an attorney for your will?
« Reply #25 on: October 04, 2015, 07:52:46 PM »
To echo Cheddarpie - Lawyer here too, trusts and estates is not currently my specialty, and there was no way I was going to draft my own (and yes, we do DIY most things around here ... but NOT that).