Author Topic: How to write a will?  (Read 4776 times)

Aggie1999

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How to write a will?
« on: February 07, 2017, 07:52:45 PM »
Can someone point me in the right direction on how to get a will made cheaply but still cover all the basis? Only thing I know about a will are the advertisements for LegalZoom I have seen on TV. So basically nothing. Up until now I have simply done pay on death for my various accounts to my parents. That still leaves my house (worth a decent amount) and possessions (not worth much). At the high level I need the following out of a will for my current state of being:

- Everything goes to parents
- If both parents are deceased then everything should go to 17 year old relative my parents have 50% custody of, but in some type of trust where she cannot touch it until she is probably 35 or so.

Any advice? Can a novice accomplish this with LegalZoom? Any cheaper alternatives? Thanks.

Spork

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2017, 08:03:39 PM »
Oddly, the stuff that is worth nothing in monetary value is probably exactly what the people that love you want to sift through and take bits of.  This is just anecdotal based on my own feelings... but it's that damn ugly clock on the wall they see when they walk into your house that they actually want to remember you by. 

AMandM

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2017, 08:14:24 PM »
Personally, legal documents are one area where I don't DIY.  If anyone wants to contest anything after I die, they will have a lawyer, so I want one now. 

PepperPeter

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2017, 11:27:33 AM »
Stop being cheap and hire an attorney.  You should not DIY any type of trust and legal zoom is total shit.

(10 year trusts and estates paralegal here - I know what I'm talking about.)

frugaliknowit

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2017, 11:44:50 AM »
Can someone point me in the right direction on how to get a will made cheaply but still cover all the basis? Only thing I know about a will are the advertisements for LegalZoom I have seen on TV. So basically nothing. Up until now I have simply done pay on death for my various accounts to my parents. That still leaves my house (worth a decent amount) and possessions (not worth much). At the high level I need the following out of a will for my current state of being:

- Everything goes to parents
- If both parents are deceased then everything should go to 17 year old relative my parents have 50% custody of, but in some type of trust where she cannot touch it until she is probably 35 or so.

Any advice? Can a novice accomplish this with LegalZoom? Any cheaper alternatives? Thanks.

1.  I would suggest: don't worry about what to do when both of your parents are gone FOR NOW.  Deal with that after they both pass (you can revise the will...any new will supersedes the old).

2.  For now:  Just will your estate to your parents (revise when they both pass).  This way, it's really simple and clean.  Creating a trust is complicated and expensive, requiring a lawyer.  I followed Dave Ramsey's advise and went to US Legal forms where they have state specific will forms.   The hardest part is finding a notary.  Who is going to contest a will to your parents?  If you were married or had a live in partner, I WOULD hire a lawyer, otherwise, Nah!!

3.  In the abscense of siblings, your parents (in most states) are "next of kin", anyway (meaning if your will were somehow declared invalid, the state would direct your estate to your parents anyway...).

« Last Edit: February 08, 2017, 01:42:28 PM by frugaliknowit »

MrsPete

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2017, 12:26:37 PM »
I'm in the camp of, Do it right -- get a lawyer. 

Years ago we did some sort of internet fill-in-the-blank type of will ... then we did "real wills" through our credit union.  Cost about $250 total; honestly, I thought it'd be twice that -- of course, we're also easy:  married only once to each other, no children outside the marriage, no children with special needs -- that was for 1) a will; 2) a power of attorney; and 3) a living will for both of us -- so six documents total -- and it was SO MUCH BETTER than the internet thing we did earlier.  The lawyer brought up all sorts of questions that we hadn't considered /options that we hadn't realized could be taken.  Best of all, he wrote it up in such a way that it really covers EVERYTHING ... unless one of us dies /the other remarries and brings in new family members to the fold, we need never do anything else EVER.  We might want to make changes in the future for grandchildren who don't yet exist, but that would be a choice. 

What the credit union route WAS NOT was fast.  I saw the sign saying they offer this service, and I made an appointment -- it was weeks ahead.  We went in to meet the "get ready guy", who asked us questions we couldn't answer and got us thinking about difficult topics.  Then we made a second appointment some two months later, and on that day we saw the lawyer and did the official paperwork.  It's one of those cases of, You can have it fast or you can have it cheap.  Because we're fairly young and healthy, we were fine with cheap-and-slow ... someone else in a different situation might feel differently.

Different topic:  We opted not to go with the put-money-in-a-trust thing.  It costs money and reduces the children's inheritance.  Instead, we wrote up a lengthy document (not something in the lawyer's possession -- just something in our personal safe for our kids) with our suggestions on how to use the money.  In particular, we cautioned them not to make changes /spend rashly in the first months of their inheritance ... and we cautioned them that this is IT; used well, the money could make their lives better forever.  We feel comfortable with this because 1) we're both healthy and aren't particularly likely to die before the kids are much older.  2) they are frugal and cautious with money and are likely to take our advice. 

Aggie1999

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2017, 08:15:39 PM »
Can someone point me in the right direction on how to get a will made cheaply but still cover all the basis? Only thing I know about a will are the advertisements for LegalZoom I have seen on TV. So basically nothing. Up until now I have simply done pay on death for my various accounts to my parents. That still leaves my house (worth a decent amount) and possessions (not worth much). At the high level I need the following out of a will for my current state of being:

- Everything goes to parents
- If both parents are deceased then everything should go to 17 year old relative my parents have 50% custody of, but in some type of trust where she cannot touch it until she is probably 35 or so.

Any advice? Can a novice accomplish this with LegalZoom? Any cheaper alternatives? Thanks.

1.  I would suggest: don't worry about what to do when both of your parents are gone FOR NOW.  Deal with that after they both pass (you can revise the will...any new will supersedes the old).

2.  For now:  Just will your estate to your parents (revise when they both pass).  This way, it's really simple and clean.  Creating a trust is complicated and expensive, requiring a lawyer.  I followed Dave Ramsey's advise and went to US Legal forms where they have state specific will forms.   The hardest part is finding a notary.  Who is going to contest a will to your parents?  If you were married or had a live in partner, I WOULD hire a lawyer, otherwise, Nah!!

3.  In the abscense of siblings, your parents (in most states) are "next of kin", anyway (meaning if your will were somehow declared invalid, the state would direct your estate to your parents anyway...).

Thanks for the advice. Same goes for everyone else. Maybe it's the cheapness in me but I am thinking in my situation I don't need a lawyer for a will. Some googling turned up the below link. Looks like in Texas you don't even need a hand written will to be notarized. I'm thinking a hand written one is good enough for my current situation. When the time comes to do the more complicated one with a trust, etc then I'll probably involve a lawyer.

http://info.legalzoom.com/make-own-testament-texas-4730.html

Eric9064

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2017, 05:33:54 AM »
My recommendation is to hire a lawyer. I am all for saving money by doing things for yourself, but there are certain instances where I think it is worth paying the money to have someone who is educated, trained and experienced handle the matter (doctors, accountants, lawyers).

I am an attorney, but when it comes time for me to write a will, I will pay a lawyer who specializes in trust and estates to do it for me. Like so many things, the law is complex and nuanced and you really put yourself at risk if its not done right. Basically, you don't know what you don't know.


MayDay

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2017, 08:29:41 AM »
A single person leaving everything to his/her parents is not complex.

Make sure you have them as beneficiaries of your accounts.

Make up a master list of accounts, do either a handwritten will or an online form, keep it all together, done.

Ignore and hire lawyer if you have any sort of complications.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2017, 09:04:47 AM »
Thanks for the advice. Same goes for everyone else. Maybe it's the cheapness in me but I am thinking in my situation I don't need a lawyer for a will. Some googling turned up the below link. Looks like in Texas you don't even need a hand written will to be notarized. I'm thinking a hand written one is good enough for my current situation. When the time comes to do the more complicated one with a trust, etc then I'll probably involve a lawyer.

http://info.legalzoom.com/make-own-testament-texas-4730.html

I can assure you that (a) you don't know what you're talking about, (b) an attorney won't be as much as you think, and (c) an attorney will do 100x a better job than your DIY.

Please, as an attorney who constantly cleans up people's messes because they were too cheap to get an attorney on the front end of a transaction, get an attorney now and save yourself the trouble later.

This is not the type of stuff to cheap out on.

Not that everything MMM says is gospel, but this reminds me of his article on why he pays someone to do his taxes.

Laura33

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2017, 09:19:06 AM »
Thanks for the advice. Same goes for everyone else. Maybe it's the cheapness in me but I am thinking in my situation I don't need a lawyer for a will. Some googling turned up the below link. Looks like in Texas you don't even need a hand written will to be notarized. I'm thinking a hand written one is good enough for my current situation. When the time comes to do the more complicated one with a trust, etc then I'll probably involve a lawyer.

http://info.legalzoom.com/make-own-testament-texas-4730.html

No.  Nonononononononono.  The question is not whether you need a lawyer to get the will properly notarized and filed -- it's making sure the words on that document mean what you want to say.  I don't know any other area of law where there are so many words that don't mean what you think they mean, and ways to do the opposite of what you think you're doing just by using what seems like plain English.  A lawyer will also tell you how you need to title assets (e.g., did you know your POD accounts will not pass through your will at all?  So if you hold everything as POD to your parents, and then you write a will with a trust for the 17-year-old, you just disinherited the 17-yr-old).

For some perspective, I'm a lawyer, working in a very, very geeky, complicated area of law.  And I hired another lawyer to do my will for me.  That's how NOT confident I was of getting it right.

FWIW, you already have a will -- it's the will written by the State of TX, and it will probably leave your assets to your parents unless you marry/have kids before you die.  So if you are good with that, you don't need to do anything -- your heirs have to pay a little more in legal fees when you die intestate so the court can make sure that the assets are appropriately distributed per TX law, but, hey, you won't be around, not your problem.

OTOH, if you want to provide for the 17-yr-old, you need a will and a trust, and that requires a lawyer -- if you care enough to try to set up something like this, you need to care enough to make sure it is done right.  Period.  You have one chance not to fuck this up, so, well, don't risk fucking it up to save a few bucks.

tarheeldan

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2017, 09:29:57 AM »
I prepared my will with Willing:

https://app.willing.com/

You can also do a living will.

PepperPeter

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2017, 09:54:04 AM »
A single person leaving everything to his/her parents is not complex.

Make sure you have them as beneficiaries of your accounts.

Make up a master list of accounts, do either a handwritten will or an online form, keep it all together, done.

Ignore and hire lawyer if you have any sort of complications.

I literally made an account here last week because after lurking for years, I am SO sick of people giving armchair quarterback advice about estate planning.  In some states, beneficiary designations trump a will - not in others.  In some states, a divorce nullifies a beneficiary designation - not in others.  Some states do not acknowledge handwritten wills as valid wills.  Most online forms don't take into account state specific issues (such as homestead devise rules, etc.).  You are not in a position to tell someone what is or isn't complex without any knowledge of their assets or the laws in their state of residence, or you know, a law degree.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2017, 10:00:10 AM »
No.  Nonononononononono.  The question is not whether you need a lawyer to get the will properly notarized and filed -- it's making sure the words on that document mean what you want to say.  I don't know any other area of law where there are so many words that don't mean what you think they mean, and ways to do the opposite of what you think you're doing just by using what seems like plain English.  A lawyer will also tell you how you need to title assets (e.g., did you know your POD accounts will not pass through your will at all?  So if you hold everything as POD to your parents, and then you write a will with a trust for the 17-year-old, you just disinherited the 17-yr-old).

For some perspective, I'm a lawyer, working in a very, very geeky, complicated area of law.  And I hired another lawyer to do my will for me.  That's how NOT confident I was of getting it right.

FWIW, you already have a will -- it's the will written by the State of TX, and it will probably leave your assets to your parents unless you marry/have kids before you die.  So if you are good with that, you don't need to do anything -- your heirs have to pay a little more in legal fees when you die intestate so the court can make sure that the assets are appropriately distributed per TX law, but, hey, you won't be around, not your problem.

OTOH, if you want to provide for the 17-yr-old, you need a will and a trust, and that requires a lawyer -- if you care enough to try to set up something like this, you need to care enough to make sure it is done right.  Period.  You have one chance not to fuck this up, so, well, don't risk fucking it up to save a few bucks.

This is in more detail of what I wanted to post earlier.  I also am an attorney and I also paid someone to draft my will.  Probate documents (wills, trusts, etc.) use an entirely separate form of language. 

Also, what Laura is referring to in dying without a will is called "dying intestate," and you can read the state statutes on where things go when that happens.  But again, I can assure you that even the statutes likely do not mean what you think they mean, and you should probably ask a lawyer.

In sum, I'm posting a second time because I can't say it strongly enough--this is not something you want to cheap out on. Hire a lawyer.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2017, 10:03:33 AM by ReadySetMillionaire »

brian313313

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2017, 06:30:23 AM »
How do you find a good lawyer? As with any profession, there are good & bad people out there. I've had significant problems with a CPA I hired to do my taxes and it makes me leery of hiring anyone. The CPA had good reviews on Kudzu and was local to me but to make a long story short, it didn't work out and I went back to doing my own taxes. My wife & I need a will and that's probably part of the reason we keep postponing it. We have no children so that should simplify it but as stated before, we don't know what they local laws are. I tried calling one local attorney several times in the past but she never returned my calls. I got the receptionist and she was always in court when I called so she may have been too busy to take on new clients.


PepperPeter

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2017, 08:36:51 AM »
How do you find a good lawyer? As with any profession, there are good & bad people out there. I've had significant problems with a CPA I hired to do my taxes and it makes me leery of hiring anyone. The CPA had good reviews on Kudzu and was local to me but to make a long story short, it didn't work out and I went back to doing my own taxes. My wife & I need a will and that's probably part of the reason we keep postponing it. We have no children so that should simplify it but as stated before, we don't know what they local laws are. I tried calling one local attorney several times in the past but she never returned my calls. I got the receptionist and she was always in court when I called so she may have been too busy to take on new clients.

Find an AV rated lawyer specializing in trusts & estates in your area (it's a peer review system).  Do not go to a general practitioner.  Ask how long they've been practicing.  10+ years is great, OR you can find an associate attorney working under a more experienced partner who helps review their documents as they build their own practice.  Most seasoned attorneys do not actually draft their own documents and only review the work of the paralegal or associate who does the drafting (more cost effective for the client).

If you need tax planning, find an attorney with an LLM (advanced legal degree) in taxation or someone who is board certified (if that's available in your state).

ETA:  Most people also think they *just* need a will, which is false.  A good estate planning attorney will recommend powers of attorney for property, powers of attorney for healthcare, living wills, HIPAA authorizations (+/- variations from state to state), all of which you do really need as well.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2017, 08:41:59 AM by ErinPeter »

lthenderson

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2017, 09:03:16 AM »
How do you find a good lawyer?

The best source of information for finding a good resource for just about anything is to ask among family, friends and neighbors in the area who have had the same thing done. Asking about their experience will tell you whether it is someone you might trust or at least someone to avoid. I met a lawyer at a trivia contest and after talking to him, went from thinking about writing my will myself to getting it done professionally through him. I was totally blown away about some of the standard questions he asked that we hadn't even though about. We met with him for an hour to answer all the questions and another hour to review the written documents (six total) several weeks later. I still consider it the best $200 I ever spent.

Spork

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2017, 05:27:50 PM »
How do you find a good lawyer?

The best source of information for finding a good resource for just about anything is to ask among family, friends and neighbors in the area who have had the same thing done. Asking about their experience will tell you whether it is someone you might trust or at least someone to avoid. I met a lawyer at a trivia contest and after talking to him, went from thinking about writing my will myself to getting it done professionally through him. I was totally blown away about some of the standard questions he asked that we hadn't even though about. We met with him for an hour to answer all the questions and another hour to review the written documents (six total) several weeks later. I still consider it the best $200 I ever spent.

Your answer is correct.  I don't mean to say it isn't.  But I've had 2 experiences with "friend and family recommended lawyers."  One of them just screwed me over for about $300.  It wasn't the end of the world, but ... he didn't do what he was paid to do.  The other has just never returned my calls.  I never made an appointment... because I can't.  Every time I call, they say "oh yeah, sorry... we're going to get to you ... real soon now."

It would be nice to figure out a way to find a reasonable professional outside the recommendation circle.  That just hasn't been working for me.

MrsPete

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2017, 12:58:47 PM »
Maybe it's the cheapness in me but I am thinking in my situation I don't need a lawyer for a will.
Did you read my post above?  My husband and I together paid $250 for a will, a power of attorney, and a living will for both of us.  These documents are written properly and will not need to be re-written (unless one of us dies/the other remarries). 

Cheap is doing less than is necessary to protect the assets for which you've worked /allowing your estate to be diminished by traveling through the I-didn't-have-a-real-will-and-it-will-work-out-eventually process that the state will demand.   
Frugal is looking for a way to do it well for the best possible price. 

MoonLiteNite

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2017, 05:52:10 PM »
I see alot of people mention to make sure family/parents/kids listed as the beneficiaries on your will.
A will has NO say in who is the beneficiary on a written contract, things like 401k, bank accounts, brokerage accounts. If you have someone listed in those accounts, there is no need to put them in the will. If anything it will cause MORE problems if you update one and not the other.

If you have alot of different types of assets, get a pro to help. If you just have a bunch of stuff, TV, computer, cars, you can EASILY do that yourself. You can update them at anytime and no need for courts witnesses or anything

PepperPeter

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2017, 08:42:24 AM »
I see alot of people mention to make sure family/parents/kids listed as the beneficiaries on your will.
A will has NO say in who is the beneficiary on a written contract, things like 401k, bank accounts, brokerage accounts. If you have someone listed in those accounts, there is no need to put them in the will. If anything it will cause MORE problems if you update one and not the other.

If you have alot of different types of assets, get a pro to help. If you just have a bunch of stuff, TV, computer, cars, you can EASILY do that yourself. You can update them at anytime and no need for courts witnesses or anything

No.  Sorry.  Sometimes a Will does (or can) have a say over contracted accounts, and forgive me if I sound like a broken record here, but it depends on the state that you live in. 

An attorney would explain that your beneficiary designations and Will/Trust should work together to accomplish your estate planning goals.  Each account with a beneficiary designation is governed by its own plan documents which also say what happens if your designation fails (by death, divorce, etc.) and your account could end up paid out to your estate.  There are so many variables in play when someone dies and you spouting off nonsense about tangible personal property is not helpful.  Some states have binding separate writings for what you want to do with your personal property and in other states it's nonbinding and left up to your executor/personal rep.

OP, stop listening to anything posted here and pay someone with a JD some cash money to tell you what you don't know.

PepperPeter

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2017, 08:53:50 AM »
How do you find a good lawyer?

The best source of information for finding a good resource for just about anything is to ask among family, friends and neighbors in the area who have had the same thing done. Asking about their experience will tell you whether it is someone you might trust or at least someone to avoid. I met a lawyer at a trivia contest and after talking to him, went from thinking about writing my will myself to getting it done professionally through him. I was totally blown away about some of the standard questions he asked that we hadn't even though about. We met with him for an hour to answer all the questions and another hour to review the written documents (six total) several weeks later. I still consider it the best $200 I ever spent.

Your answer is correct.  I don't mean to say it isn't.  But I've had 2 experiences with "friend and family recommended lawyers."  One of them just screwed me over for about $300.  It wasn't the end of the world, but ... he didn't do what he was paid to do.  The other has just never returned my calls.  I never made an appointment... because I can't.  Every time I call, they say "oh yeah, sorry... we're going to get to you ... real soon now."

It would be nice to figure out a way to find a reasonable professional outside the recommendation circle.  That just hasn't been working for me.

If your state has board certified attorneys, that could be a good place to start.  As I said earlier, you can also search for AV rated attorneys.  However, they are likely to be working at a higher rate because they are established professionals.

brian313313

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Re: How to write a will?
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2017, 03:29:27 PM »
Well I just got a quote for $850 from an attorney. No kids, nothing complicated. That seems a little high compared to what others have posted. I did get some free advise though because he told me what I needed.