Author Topic: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?  (Read 5344 times)

Alenzia

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Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« on: March 13, 2017, 03:02:35 PM »
With our first baby coming, husband and I are looking to put together a simple will. In our state it seems that it's standard for the spouse to inherit everything, but we want to cover the unlikely scenario that both of us pass away with some basic guidance of who will have guardianship of the kid, etc. Is software like this a good idea? https://www.amazon.com/Quicken-Willmaker-Plus-2017-Software/dp/1413323103/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489438006&sr=1-1&keywords=quicken+willmaker

Are there other inexpensive resources you'd recommend? We really are looking to essentially make something that'll leave everything to the kid and set his guardians.

GizmoTX

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2017, 04:11:37 PM »
The least expensive way is to thoroughly investigate & decide what you want and then consult an attorney knowledgeable in family wills to make sure this is properly executed for your location. The expensive ways include paying an attorney to take the time to walk you through your decisions or not consulting an attorney at all. After death is too late to fix any errors. You can use software to help organize your facts, but not to actually put a will into place.

Your wills should provide for three different scenarios: 1) one parent dies; 2) second parent dies (together with first or serially); 3) all family members die together (no child to inherit). With #1, usually the surviving parent is the sole heir. With #3, you are disposing of all that you own. #2 is the biggie for parents: you need to name a guardian, preferably 3 in series in case your first pick is no longer willing or able, & you should provide some way of funding the cost of raising your child(ren). Your child(ren) cannot inherit -- your will should provide for a testamentary trust to be created, again naming a trustee in a series of 3. Your guardian does not have to be the trustee, & shouldn't be if not good with money. Your executor should also be named in a series of 3, with spouse usually the first, responsible family member or trusted friend 2nd, & a bank that handles trusts & estates 3rd if you expect a large estate or have no trusted options.

Finally, along with wills, plan on executing springing powers of attorney for health & financial decisions for each other in case either becomes temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

dleavitt

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2017, 04:33:47 PM »
My wife and I went through our basic estate planning with an attorney.  Went this route primarily because I didn't know what I didn't know.  The attorney we worked with took the time to go through all the provisions and answer our questions, which ensures that our wills say exactly what we want them to.

Fees will vary, in my mind ours was hilariously inexpensive at $375 for the two of us.  Well worth the peace of mind.

shawndoggy

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2017, 04:48:53 PM »
Even if not technically required, using a lawyer is a phenomenally good idea.  You'll spend far more on the first day of a will contest than you will to have an estate planning attorney put a simple will together for you.

Duke03

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2017, 07:17:54 PM »
First things first check with your life insurance company.  I have my life insurance through Met life and one of the benefits they offered us was a free sit down with one of their attorneys and they did a free will and estate planning.  It's something they really didn't advertise, but I found it buried in the small print of one of my life insurance documents.  Called them up and they said yep you are entitled to a free will and estate planning when would you like to meet with one of our attorneys.  It was that simple.

khangaroo

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2017, 07:19:38 PM »
I've followed the rule of thumb that if your estate is less than $1 million than you'll be okay doing your own.

I made mine through rocketlawyer.com and then got it notarized while my witnesses signed the will.

Total cost = $0.

However, if you have a lot of assets or a complicated will like you have multiple children or you want your money to go to a trust when you die then I would suggest contacting a lawyer.

Felicity

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2017, 07:26:29 PM »
Any workplace group legal plan available, by any chance? It seems to be a fairly common optional benefit at largeish companies. Depending on the policy, that may be a good option.

I've followed the rule of thumb that if your estate is less than $1 million than you'll be okay doing your own.

I made mine through rocketlawyer.com and then got it notarized while my witnesses signed the will.

Total cost = $0.

However, if you have a lot of assets or a complicated will like you have multiple children or you want your money to go to a trust when you die then I would suggest contacting a lawyer.

This site compares three different digital will companies/resources: https://www.gyst.com/articles/the-gyst-review-of-diy-digital-wills -- Rocket Lawyer does seem like a good option if you go that route.

Iplawyer

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2017, 05:13:01 AM »
Even if not technically required, using a lawyer is a phenomenally good idea.  You'll spend far more on the first day of a will contest than you will to have an estate planning attorney put a simple will together for you.
+10000000 Would you take your own appendix out?  Well - don't write your own will either.  It is typically fairly inexpensive since most Wills and Estate attorneys will already have the format.  It is a one time expense.   Just do it.

lthenderson

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2017, 08:32:02 AM »
Some friends of mine died a couple years ago in a car wreck leaving behind kids and no will in a state where wills are not required. The kids went into temporary foster homes until the courts could decide who the legal guardian was to be and even though there was no dispute, this still took around four months to accomplish. It opened my eyes to the NEED to have a good will.

We found another friend who was a lawyer who did a package of wills, estate planning, power of attorney, living wills, etc. I think it cost us about two hours of time and $250 to get all those documents created. I consider myself reasonably intelligent but found myself having to think hard about answers to questions and situations he asked about to complete these documents. I went from flirting to the DIY online camp to firmly believing everyone should pay to have a professional in this area write one for them. Not only do we have them done professionally now, but we have copies of it at home, with family members and with the lawyers office so in case my wife and I should die suddenly, there is no question about what it supposed to be done with our kids, estate, our incapacitated live bodies or our dead bodies.

Krolik

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2017, 08:52:54 AM »
We are also in the process of putting our estate plans together and in our area it is pretty expensive. The whole package (trust + wills+ medical health directive, power of attorney) for both of us would be $2500.

I researched a little bit and AVVO offers a 'fixed price' service at very reasonable rates. I think I will go with them. You  pay fixed price  for the service and pick your own lawyer. https://www.avvo.com/estate-planning/legal-services

MsSindy

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2017, 08:59:50 AM »
Because there are child(ren) involved, I would want the peace of mind that the Will and Guardianship papers were in order. Time spent in Foster Care after the death of parents would be fairly traumatic for any child.  I thought about doing it myself since we don't have children, but in the end, just paid and everything was done easy-peasy, just had to answer a bunch of questions.

We had our whole package done (medical directives, POAs, etc) for $625 for both of us, which we thought was reasonable.  It think it really varies from state to state, and of course, be sure to shop around.

Herder of cats

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2017, 10:25:05 AM »
As others have already suggested, even for a relatively simple situation, this is an area where the help of a qualified estate attorney can be invaluable.

There are likely lots of intricacies involved in Colorado law - or any state for that matter -  that a good estate attorney will help you work through in a manner that Quicken wills likely will not (although, full disclosure, I haven't used the particular software you mention, so I can't say for sure whether it will or not). 

As just one example, some states limit the age at which a child can legally "become the owner" of inherited property.  So, if you leave your entire estate to your child, and both you and your husband pass away while your child is very young, your child will technically inherit everything, but the court may require that everything be put in Trust until your child reaches a certain age, and appoint a Trustee to manage the funds/pay for the care of your child.  That Trustee may, or may not, be the person you have named as Guardian for your child.  (I don't know specific Colorado law - so this may not be an issue for you).  The Trustee is likely going to be very restricted in how he/she can disperse funds, and might be required to go to Court to request permission to use funds.  Paying a Court Appointed Trustee and going to court costs money - and, in this scenario, the funds to cover that are likely going to come out of your estate.  (Again, this is more of a general example, I don't know if Colorado, specifically, works this way, but I do know that other states do.)

That's probably OK, and the court would likely pick a qualified trustee, but - with some forethought - you can establish a testamentary trust within your will, and you can pick who the Trustee is, and how they can use your funds for the benefit of your child. 

At the end of the day, the outcomes of these scenarios are the same - your child inherits everything.  However, in the first scenario the Court determines who is acting as Trustee and how they can use your funds for your child (with, at least some, costs being charged to your estate), and in the second scenario you determine all that, and the Trustee is someone you know and trust (and probably have discussed things with beforehand). 

Again, this is just a general example, and might not even be applicable to Colorado at all.  But this is definitely something that an estate attorney familiar with Colorado law could help you work through.  Quicken Willmaker may help you work through it too, I don't know, just keep in mind that there are a lot of intricacies like this that many DIY will programs do not account for.  You may still end up with a valid will, but the outcome might not be exactly what you would want, or exactly what you think it is going to be. 

Finally, I definitely second the suggestion to shop around - I don't know where in Colorado you are, but the cost for a good set of estate planning documents in Denver is likely going to be higher than in some of the lower cost of living areas in Colorado.  If you are in a relatively low cost of living area, or can get to one relatively easily, you can likely find the same quality of service with a much lower price tag. 


Alenzia

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2017, 11:02:03 AM »
Thanks for everyone's responses! After seeing the overwhelming feedback against DIYing this, I looked around my work benefits and it looks like we have something with MetLife Hyatt where I can get a legal plan for $18/month and they'll cover visits with their attorneys for things like wills and other routine legal stuff.

Does anyone have experience working with MetLife Hyatt for legal things? Are they actually useful?
« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 11:04:46 AM by Alenzia »

PepperPeter

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2017, 10:19:50 AM »
I've followed the rule of thumb that if your estate is less than $1 million than you'll be okay doing your own.

I made mine through rocketlawyer.com and then got it notarized while my witnesses signed the will.

Total cost = $0.

However, if you have a lot of assets or a complicated will like you have multiple children or you want your money to go to a trust when you die then I would suggest contacting a lawyer.

That is a terrible rule of thumb. 

I'm a trusts & estates paralegal, and I'm currently working on a trust administration for a trust prepared online and it included provisions that are specifically not applicable under state law.  While you may have saved money now, let me assure you that my hourly rate of $220 and my attorney's hourly rate of $450 add up pretty fucking quickly to sort out a shitty cheap drafting mess.

shawndoggy

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2017, 11:07:18 AM »
While you may have saved money now, let me assure you that my hourly rate of $220 and my attorney's hourly rate of $450 add up pretty fucking quickly to sort out a shitty cheap drafting mess.

zactly. 

The only other point I will add is that while price is a concern, I would be leery of shopping the project even among lawyers based on price alone.  There are crappy lawyers just as there are crappy everything else.  Do you always go to the cheapest dentist or cheapest mechanic?  Sometimes you get what you pay for.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'd be cautious and rely on your gut.  Get educated first about what you think you want, and ask your lawyer about those things when you first meet.

Spork

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2017, 11:14:05 AM »
From other threads here... I was finally convinced NOT to DIY my will and to hire an attorney.

I have recently dealt with my Dad's estate attorney... and hated him.  He didn't do his homework (always asking the same questions over and over) and in probably 10 or more meetings I've had with him, each meeting miraculously was exactly one hour in length (with lots of repetition).  Anything he did billed at $2-3k and usually took multiple meetings (each billing at that amount).

When it came time to bite the bullet, I realized a friend of mine was a paralegal and I got her recommendation on an estate attorney.   Wife and I were in and out of that office in under 15 minutes.  $750 for 2 wills. 

honeybbq

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2017, 11:25:42 AM »
Even if not technically required, using a lawyer is a phenomenally good idea.  You'll spend far more on the first day of a will contest than you will to have an estate planning attorney put a simple will together for you.

Agreed. In the horrific scenario you and your spouse both die, do you want your child to be trapped in limbo? Get a rock solid will. Not a good place to cheap out IMO. If it's simple, the lawyer won't cost that much.

kite

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2017, 04:31:27 PM »
A Will is not all you need. 
Health Care Proxy, Advanced Directive and Power of Attorney may also be relevant. 
Another thing to realize is that while your estate may be too small for worrying about a Trust today, with life insurance, you may be squarely in the territory where a Trust makes the most sense for your heirs. 

ClovisKid

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2017, 04:50:09 PM »
I purchased "Suze Orman's Must Have Documents" when I prepared the estate planning paperwork for my mother.  Mom's situation is fairly straight forward with a paid-for house, and investments worth less than $200K.  She's >70 years old with four children that are equal beneficiaries.  The "kit" includes a step-by-step process to customize four "must-have" documents:
  • Will
  • Revocable Trust
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

Suze frequently pitches this product on PBS stations and sells them as part of the fundraising events.  The process was very straight forward and the four documents are supposed to be completely vetted for compliance and legality in all 50 states, etc.  $90 bucks for the package.  I am still debating whether or not to use it for my own estate planning as I am not sure if I am gong to make things more complicated or not.  Anyways, I can recommend the kit for it's ease of use.  I don't know how it would hold up to any legal challenges, but I feel good knowing it's a branded product and I can't find any attorneys that have ripped it to shreds with a bad review online.

GizmoTX

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2017, 11:17:42 PM »
You should also add "Living Will" to the list, also known as Advance Healthcare Directive. This states your wishes in specific end of life decisions, such as whether to resuscitate or to be kept alive by medical measures, while the Healthcare POA designates a person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to (temporarily or permanently). The Living Will guides your POA person as well as your doctors. Some states allow these two documents to be merged into one.


john6221

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2017, 09:44:01 AM »
The most obnoxious thing is that this legal system is artificially complex. It's not like medicine or physics where you have to understand biochemistry or vector calculus which are inherent to our universe. Instead I am helping to pay some guy's law school debt because a bunch of other guys long before him decided they needed a job-security system.

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shawndoggy

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2017, 10:21:04 AM »
The most obnoxious thing is that this legal system is artificially complex. It's not like medicine or physics where you have to understand biochemistry or vector calculus which are inherent to our universe. Instead I am helping to pay some guy's law school debt because a bunch of other guys long before him decided they needed a job-security system.

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Stupid founding fathers and their federal system...

GizmoTX

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #22 on: March 22, 2017, 10:29:53 AM »
Before we had laws, i.e. rules, people had to resort to violence to resolve things.

BFGirl

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2017, 02:38:46 PM »
I've followed the rule of thumb that if your estate is less than $1 million than you'll be okay doing your own.

I made mine through rocketlawyer.com and then got it notarized while my witnesses signed the will.

Total cost = $0.

However, if you have a lot of assets or a complicated will like you have multiple children or you want your money to go to a trust when you die then I would suggest contacting a lawyer.

That is a terrible rule of thumb. 

I'm a trusts & estates paralegal, and I'm currently working on a trust administration for a trust prepared online and it included provisions that are specifically not applicable under state law.  While you may have saved money now, let me assure you that my hourly rate of $220 and my attorney's hourly rate of $450 add up pretty fucking quickly to sort out a shitty cheap drafting mess.

+1   I made a lot more money off fixing the problems caused by people who drafted their own wills than I did from doing them correctly in the first place.

BFGirl

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #24 on: March 22, 2017, 02:42:27 PM »
I purchased "Suze Orman's Must Have Documents" when I prepared the estate planning paperwork for my mother.  Mom's situation is fairly straight forward with a paid-for house, and investments worth less than $200K.  She's >70 years old with four children that are equal beneficiaries.  The "kit" includes a step-by-step process to customize four "must-have" documents:
  • Will
  • Revocable Trust
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

Suze frequently pitches this product on PBS stations and sells them as part of the fundraising events.  The process was very straight forward and the four documents are supposed to be completely vetted for compliance and legality in all 50 states, etc.  $90 bucks for the package.  I am still debating whether or not to use it for my own estate planning as I am not sure if I am gong to make things more complicated or not.  Anyways, I can recommend the kit for it's ease of use.  I don't know how it would hold up to any legal challenges, but I feel good knowing it's a branded product and I can't find any attorneys that have ripped it to shreds with a bad review online.

In my state there is certain "magic language" that can make a will much less costly to probate.  I would not trust some generic form that is supposed to comply with the laws in all 50 states.  While it may be a "valid" will, that doesn't mean that it flows with the laws of the state that you are in.

MrsPete

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #25 on: March 22, 2017, 02:55:27 PM »
We found another friend who was a lawyer who did a package of wills, estate planning, power of attorney, living wills, etc. I think it cost us about two hours of time and $250 to get all those documents created. I consider myself reasonably intelligent but found myself having to think hard about answers to questions and situations he asked about to complete these documents. I went from flirting to the DIY online camp to firmly believing everyone should pay to have a professional in this area write one for them.
I didn't write this, but I share the sentiment 100%. 

Years and years ago we did a DIY internet will, and I always felt iffy about it.  Then we went with a real lawyer (through our credit union - it cost either $250 or $300, can't remember which, but that included 2 wills, 2 powers of attorney, 2 living wills.  While we felt fairly well prepared, the lawyer brought up things we hand't considered ourselves.  We didn't do everything he suggested, but we felt better informed for having talked to him. 

We know that our will is written up properly.  If our lives continue on as they are now, it literally never NEEDS to be redone.  It covers what'll happen when one of us dies, when the second one dies, and if we and our children die together.  We agree that someday when we have grandchildren we may opt to add -- is it a codicil? -- to name them specifically in our wills, but that isn't a need.  We would only NEED to re-do our wills IF one of us died, and the other re-married, bringing in new family members and muddying the waters.

With small children, it's very important that you have laid out plans for them.  Yes, it's unlikely that you'll both die before they're adults, but IF it should happen, you'd want to make their path as easy as possible.  You absolutely need your wishes to be recorded in writing.  To give an example:  My husband and I are the "in case we die" caretakers for two children in our family.  On the surface, we don't appear to be the right choice; we are the oldest children, and these children belong to his youngest siblings.  Three other couples in the family have children closer to the kids' age ... and, at a glance, they appear to be better choices.  However, that's not what the parents want:  They want us.  Our childraising philosophies are more in line, and we are better prepared financially.  Before I agreed to be "it", I insisted that the parents had to have it spelled out in a will.  This situation isn't likely to come to fruition, but IF it should, the last thing I want for those kids is an ongoing battle with several sets of aunts/uncles trying to claim them.  So much easier for the kids if it's all spelled out. 

Here's another example of why you want a rock-solid will.  A friend of mine just lost her husband; he died in a sudden accident.  He didn't have a will, but everything will go to his wife (eventually).  Their problem:  The husband was married before, and he had two daughters who are in their early 30s.  He and my friend had another daughter, who is a senior in high school.  When he and his wife divorced, he kept the house /bought out the first wife, who took the kids and went home to live with her own parents -- and is still there.  He and my friend lived in that house for 20+ years; she helped make payments on it, and she helped pay for an addition and a good bit of remodeling.  It's HER house.  Yet when her husband died, the older girls made it CRYSTAL CLEAR that they expected her to move out and give them "their daddy's house, which was never hers at all".  The girls have no legal leg upon which to stand, but she's so pissed off that she says she's going to write a new will and cut them out altogether -- which is her legal right, but probably not what her late husband would've wanted.  If he had left a will, this would all have been spelled out. 
« Last Edit: March 22, 2017, 03:04:11 PM by MrsPete »

PepperPeter

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #26 on: March 22, 2017, 03:07:03 PM »
We found another friend who was a lawyer who did a package of wills, estate planning, power of attorney, living wills, etc. I think it cost us about two hours of time and $250 to get all those documents created. I consider myself reasonably intelligent but found myself having to think hard about answers to questions and situations he asked about to complete these documents. I went from flirting to the DIY online camp to firmly believing everyone should pay to have a professional in this area write one for them.
I didn't write this, but I share the sentiment 100%. 

Years and years ago we did a DIY internet will, and I always felt iffy about it.  Then we went with a real lawyer (through our credit union - it cost either $250 or $300, can't remember which, but that included 2 wills, 2 powers of attorney, 2 living wills.  While we felt fairly well prepared, the lawyer brought up things we hand't considered ourselves.  We didn't do everything he suggested, but we felt better informed for having talked to him. 

We know that our will is written up properly.  If our lives continue on as they are now, it literally never NEEDS to be redone.  It covers what'll happen when one of us dies, when the second one dies, and if we and our children die together.  We agree that someday when we have grandchildren we may opt to add -- is it a codicil? -- to name them specifically in our wills, but that isn't a need.  We would only NEED to re-do our wills IF one of us died, and the other re-married, bringing in new family members and muddying the waters.

With small children, it's very important that you have laid out plans for them.  Yes, it's unlikely that you'll both die before they're adults, but IF it should happen, you'd want to make their path as easy as possible.  You absolutely need your wishes to be recorded in writing.  To give an example:  My husband and I are the "in case we die" caretakers for two children in our family.  On the surface, we don't appear to be the right choice; we are the oldest children, and these children belong to his youngest siblings.  Three other couples in the family have children closer to the kids' age ... and, at a glance, they appear to be better choices.  However, that's not what the parents want:  They want us.  Our childraising philosophies are more in line, and we are better prepared financially.  Before I agreed to be "it", I insisted that the parents had to have it spelled out in a will.  This situation isn't likely to come to fruition, but IF it should, the last thing I want for those kids is an ongoing battle with several sets of aunts/uncles trying to claim them.  So much easier for the kids if it's all spelled out. 

Here's another example of why you want a rock-solid will.  A friend of mine just lost her husband; he died in a sudden accident.  He didn't have a will, but everything will go to his wife (eventually).  Their problem:  The husband was married before, and he had two daughters who are in their early 30s.  He and my friend had another daughter, who is a senior in high school.  When he and his wife divorced, he kept the house /bought out the first wife, who took the kids and went home to live with her own parents -- and is still there.  He and my friend lived in that house for 20+ years; she helped make payments on it, and she helped pay for an addition and a good bit of remodeling.  It's HER house.  Yet when her husband died, the older girls made it CRYSTAL CLEAR that they expected her to move out and give them "their daddy's house, which was never hers at all".  The girls have no legal leg upon which to stand, but she's so pissed off that she says she's going to write a new will and cut them out altogether -- which is her legal right, but probably not what her late husband would've wanted.  If he had left a will, this would all have been spelled out.

The bold is not entirely accurate.  Your family circumstances may not change, but the laws in your state or federal law might.  We generally recommend you check with an attorney every 5-7 years.

trollwithamustache

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Re: Best way to get a will put together inexpensively?
« Reply #27 on: March 22, 2017, 03:32:13 PM »
How complicated is your estate? I did the quicken route, but if I croak, she gets everything, if she croaks I get it all and if we both croak her parents take the kids and get everything. With an informal expectation they pay for college.  So, sure, that last part isn't ironclad but we are OK with that.  I mean, her parents will genuinely want the grand kids to be taken care of.

From what I've seen in the family lots of trouble arises when all the beneficiary forms aren't filled out correctly on all the accounts ect. (still lists the ex wife, oops!)  We have all this stuff together and taken care of.  We only have only one piece of real estate, no weird investments/partnerships, or other no brokerage account assets.

When the kids are adults/one in college one not, this will change as we will want multiple beneficiaries. 

Realize you have to decide what you want to happen, the attorney cannot do that for you. The attorney is expensive hand holding if you have not figured out what you want to have happen upon expiration.