Author Topic: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will  (Read 31880 times)

Daleth

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #50 on: July 04, 2013, 08:37:14 PM »
I think a good parallel to the question of "Do I need a lawyer for an estate plan?" is "Do I need to hire a Certified Professional Planner to manage my investments?"

Usually the advice here goes something like this:

1. No, you should read some books about investing and become familiar with the information yourself. You can absolutely do it on your own, although if you have significant assets you might want to consult with one on a fee-only basis for a short time to address specific questions or strategies.

2. Nobody cares about your money like you do.

3. Keep in mind that <professional> is geared to earn money from you. It doesn't mean they are scammers by any stretch, but their primary motivation or reason for being in business is profit.

4. You owe it to yourself to at least become informed on the basics. That way if you do hire a professional you won't be paying to obtain information that is easily attained through reading, and you'll be in a better position to make decisions and sort out the good advice from the potential BS.

I think this same advice works very well for deciding whether to hire an attorney to do an estate plan. I don't know why an educated, frugal consumer would deviate from this advice when deciding whether to hire an attorney, or a doctor, or anyone else. You just get better results all around when you educate yourself.

Oy vey, SO not the case. I'm a lawyer too and would not do my own will (because I'm not a trusts & estates lawyer). Or, let me correct that: I might do my own will if all of the following were true:

(1) I had the time to get it right (for me, a lawyer, probably 10 hours; for all you non-lawyers, significantly more... and of course, for an estates & trusts lawyer, maybe 3-4 hours);
(2) That time was not better spent earning money or saving money on some less risky task, such as re-tiling my bathroom myself or whatever; and
(3) I had free access to Westlaw or Lexis to look up the latest caselaw and treatises regarding wills, trusts and estates in my specific state (I get such access twice a week at my firm--but you non-lawyers get it approximately, um, NEVER).

For me this fails on point (2), because the amount of time it takes a non-specialist to get it right could be better spent earning money or saving it in an area where the minor errors of the amateur or non-specialist would have much less devastating consequences (such as, oops, my bathroom floor has irregular grout lines or whatever). For the non-lawyers here, it fails on both points (2) and (3).

One of the key problems is that you can't just look this up in a book, because the laws are different from one state to the next. Money mangagement? That, you can look up in a book. Same goes for laying floor tile, repairing your car, or for that matter even dealing with minor health problems -- because floors, cars and human bodies are the same regardless of where you live. Wills and trusts aren't. Intestate succession (i.e. what happens if you die without a will) aren't. Challenging a will (i.e. how easy it is for relatives and others to challenge your sloppy will after you die) isn't.

So I would just brainstorm how you can use that amount of time--namely, the time it would otherwise take for you to do your will correctly (if you had access to Westlaw or Lexis and knew what to do with that access--which is likely not the case)--to either earn a good chunk of the $700 or save a good chunk of it by DIY'ing or bartering for something else. Preparing your own will and/or trust is one of the few DIY projects that is, indeed, cheap rather than frugal.

arebelspy

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #51 on: July 04, 2013, 08:47:31 PM »
Here's the telling fact for me: 5 separate people in this thread have said they are lawyers and wouldn't do their own, but would go to a specialist.

If these Mustachian people wouldn't do it DIY in a field related to their own, but want a specialist, I'd probably take that as a sign.

Here's the analogy that makes sense to me: most car mechanics would DIY their own car.  Most personal finance planners would DIY their own finances.

But a doctor is going to go to a specialist for something outside his/her specific niche.  The lawyer, likewise.

If these lawyers would have so much more of an easier time DIYing it (being familiar with a legalese), yet still want the specialist... That should be a clue for the layman.
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Daleth

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #52 on: July 04, 2013, 08:55:00 PM »
You are a wise man, ARebelSpy. I caulk my own bathtubs and am planning to refinish my own wood floors, and the only reason I hired contractors to put in a kitchen in a rental of mine last month was because I was in trial and had a tenant wanting to move in ASAP (i.e., no time to DIY), but do my own will? Dude, no.

aj_yooper

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #53 on: July 05, 2013, 05:23:23 AM »
Here's the telling fact for me: 5 separate people in this thread have said they are lawyers and wouldn't do their own, but would go to a specialist.

If these Mustachian people wouldn't do it DIY in a field related to their own, but want a specialist, I'd probably take that as a sign.

Here's the analogy that makes sense to me: most car mechanics would DIY their own car.  Most personal finance planners would DIY their own finances.

But a doctor is going to go to a specialist for something outside his/her specific niche.  The lawyer, likewise.

If these lawyers would have so much more of an easier time DIYing it (being familiar with a legalese), yet still want the specialist... That should be a clue for the layman.

If a lawyer has a spouse, they cannot do their spouse's will, so of course many married attorneys would use an attorney.  IMO, their comments are worthwhile, but may also be self-interested for their profession.

arebelspy

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #54 on: July 05, 2013, 08:16:54 AM »
IMO, their comments are worthwhile, but may also be self-interested for their profession.

In general, sure.

Here on the MMM forums?  I guess I have more faith in the readers that posted to be honest and forthcoming than you do.
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totoro

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #55 on: July 05, 2013, 08:47:55 AM »
Here's the telling fact for me: 5 separate people in this thread have said they are lawyers and wouldn't do their own, but would go to a specialist.

If these Mustachian people wouldn't do it DIY in a field related to their own, but want a specialist, I'd probably take that as a sign.

Here's the analogy that makes sense to me: most car mechanics would DIY their own car.  Most personal finance planners would DIY their own finances.

But a doctor is going to go to a specialist for something outside his/her specific niche.  The lawyer, likewise.

If these lawyers would have so much more of an easier time DIYing it (being familiar with a legalese), yet still want the specialist... That should be a clue for the layman.

If a lawyer has a spouse, they cannot do their spouse's will, so of course many married attorneys would use an attorney.  IMO, their comments are worthwhile, but may also be self-interested for their profession.

Um, no.

1.  In Canada I am aware of no restriction against a lawyer drafting a will for their spouse.  If a beneficiary witnesses a will it will void their inheritance.
2.  I do not practice in this area, nor do I wish to, and would not benefit from promoting anyone to use a lawyer for this.
3.  I said that there are some situations where a ready-made off-the-shelf will works.  Here are some reasons to use a lawyer if you don't want your will contested or deemed invalid in part:
•you are separated from your spouse but not divorced
•you are divorced and want to re-marry
•you are divorced and paying for the support of your former spouse and children
•you are living common-law, will be entering a common-law relationship, or leaving an existing one
•you are in a blended family relationship, with children of each spouse from previous relationships
•you have children from a previous relationship and an existing one
•you own your own business or are part-owner with other partners
•your estate is large and you need assistance with estate planning long before your death to reduce or eliminate taxes on your death
•you have a history of emotional or mental problems such that someone could attack the validity of your will on the basis that you did not know what you were doing when you signed the will, or were not capable of understanding the financial matters covered in the will
•you want to live in the U.S. or elsewhere for extended periods of time (the issue of your technical domicile, or permanent residence at the time of  your death has legal and tax implications in terms of your will)
•you own or plan to own real estate in the U.S. or elsewhere
•you have a will which was signed outside Canada or plan to do so
•you want to forgive certain people for debts they owe you, or make special arrangements for the repaying of debts or mortgages to your estate should you die before the debt or mortgage is paid back to you
•you want certain events to occur which are complicated and have to be carefully worded, such as having a spouse or friend have a certain income or use of a home until they re-marry or die and at that time the balance of money or house goes to someone else
•you want to set up a trust arrangement to cover various possibilities
•you want to make special arrangements to care for someone who is incapable of looking after themselves, or has shown themselves unable to apply sound financial or other relevant judgement (a child, an immature adolescent, a gambler, an alcoholic, a prodigal child, a spendthrift, or someone who has emotional, physical or mental disabilities or limitations or who is ill)
•you wish to disinherit a spouse, relative, or child for a variety of reasons (For example, you may have lent a lot of money to one child out of several and the money was not repaid and promises were broken and a serious estrangement occurred. The debt substantially reduced your estate. Another more positive reason is that all your children are now independently wealthy and don’t need your money. You may therefore want to give the majority of your estate to charitable causes.)
•you wish to appoint a guardian to look after your children in case you and your spouse die together
•you have several children and you want to provide the opportunity for one specific child to buy, have an option to buy, or receive in the will the house, business, farm or a specific possession or asset of your estate, and want to set up the appropriate procedures and wording to enable your wishes to occur.

I you want to DIY it, fill your boots!

DoubleDown

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #56 on: July 05, 2013, 10:44:13 AM »
IMO, their comments are worthwhile, but may also be self-interested for their profession.

In general, sure.

Here on the MMM forums?  I guess I have more faith in the readers that posted to be honest and forthcoming than you do.

*** First off for the attorneys, I'd like to get one thing straight right off the bat, because I think we're confusing the OP's original "$700" question with the general case and aggravating factors being thrown around. Show me the experienced estate planning lawyer in Northern Virginia that will do a complete estate plan (a thorough trust, pour-over will for two spouses, durable powers of attorney, living will, nomination of guardian, transfer of assets, final instructions, etc.) for $700 with all the complicated factors being thrown about here, and I will be first in line to sign up for that deal! Because it doesn't exist, it's more like $3000+ as the going rate. Big difference, particularly with the "cheap vs. frugal" accusations being handed out.

With that out of the way, I don't think the lawyers here are being dishonest, I think their advice honestly represents the view that goes with that profession. And that profession is extremely risk-averse, almost to a fault in situations like this. Of course they hire another lawyer to do their own wills; they are adversarial, and trained to see potential legal peril everywhere and do everything they can to eliminate technical, legalistic risk.

A layperson should consider their own situation and weigh all the bogeyman risks being thrown about here. For shit to go wrong in your DIY estate planning, ALL the following must happen:

- You must be unable to read and make sense of the educational materials available, leading to...

- You make a critical mistake in your documents (shame on you if you do that). Courts are going to give great deference to a person's final wishes, they'll be loath to overturn anything unless it is just clearly wrong. The proverbial wills written on the backs of napkins have successfully withstood court challenges

- You're too stupid to make simple beneficiary designations on retirement assets, insurance, etc. so that they automatically flow to your heirs

- You're too stupid to hold title to your home(s) in joint tenancy with your spouse so they automatically go to your spouse

- Someone exists that even knows about your assets and your plans for disbursing them, and disagrees with those plans

- That person makes a claim against your estate (presumably with some kind of legitimate grievance, not just "I don't like it" reasons)

- Your heirs tell that person to pound sand, so that person makes a formal legal challenge to your trust/will after weighing their own chances of success and the cost involved to do that

- That person proves to a judge that your trust or will had a fatal flaw (and even if it did, they only get that part overturned, the rest can be severable).

Pro Tip: That last thing is extremely hard to do. Judges don't generally go around disregarding a person's last wishes without a damn good reason to do so. If your dying wishes are being overturned, it's likely because you were trying to do something stupid in the first place, like disinherit someone that can't be disinherited, which goes to the point above about not doing stupid things, which you will not do if you read and comprehend the information that's available.

Final Pro Tip: All the things described above can happen even if you hire a lawyer to do your will/trust

DoubleDown

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #57 on: July 05, 2013, 11:05:16 AM »
I've gotta add one thing: The doom-and-gloom scenarios seem very soap opera-ish and mostly unrealistic to me. How many of us have some evil, red-headed (sorry redheads ;-) ) second cousin lying in wait to step forward at your death to make some claim against your assets, and everybody in the room gasps?

For most of us, when we die, our spouse or adult children as executors of the estate will quietly provide a copy of the death certificate and get assets transferred from the deceased person into their own name, case closed. The rest of the family and friends will be at the funeral and be available for moral support and perhaps to get things in order. They won't likely be making legal claims against the estate. But if they do, as argued above, that will be very difficult for them to achieve.

When my dad died (his estate plan prepared without a lawyer with my help), everything went incredibly smoothly. The hospital never even asked to see a copy of the living will, they relied on my word that it existed and discontinued life support as directed by us, per his wishes. All the assets went to his wife per his wishes (with me and her daughter as later beneficiaries if we outlive her). No one came around challenging anything, and he had two ex-wives with various step-children, etc. I'd have to believe this is more common than not.

It's just not as hard as is being portrayed by the attorneys, IMO.

fiveoclockshadow

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #58 on: July 05, 2013, 11:57:51 AM »
DD, I share your perspective on this.

I'd add two clarifications to it:

- If your family situation is stable, your asset distribution simple, and in the case of guardianship your children's guardian competent and reliable then for a younger person the risk of DIY is low.  The cost of repeatedly updating wills with legal advice as you get older may become high.  The older you get (more likely to die soon) and the more complicated the estate or family situation is the riskier DIY is - and as you get older the likelihood of cost in modification gets lower.  And note all discussion is of risk, not certainties, because there is risk in any estate transaction (with or without a competent lawyer).  Hopefully the legal advice reduces the risk, but it doesn't eliminate it.  Like all things it is making a risk/reward decision and that will depend on the situation.

- As to your assertion that it is extremely unlikely a judge will ignore the wishes of the deceased that is quite correct, but I don't think that is the risk people are trying to mitigate.  There are very significant costs associated with legal challenges to the will (time, money and other opportunity costs) even if the end result is the distribution matching the desires of the deceased.  I believe that is the primary real risk one attempts to mitigate with professional legal advice.  Again, the underlying assumption being that legal advice reduces that risk by reducing the likelihood the will can be challenged to the degree a judge must rule and arguments be given.  Whether that reduction of risk is worth the upfront cost depends again on the situation and a number of difficult to evaluate factors.

Daleth

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #59 on: July 05, 2013, 12:16:00 PM »
IMO, their comments are worthwhile, but may also be self-interested for their profession.

In general, sure.

Here on the MMM forums?  I guess I have more faith in the readers that posted to be honest and forthcoming than you do.

Not to mention, there's the point about car mechanics saying it's Mustachian to repair your own car, carpenters/plumbers/etc. saying it's Mustachian to DIY your carpentry and plumbing... yada yada. Why aren't they "self-interested for their profession"? Because cars, carpentry and plumbing is the same everywhere, and you really can look it up in books and on YouTube and do it yourself. But the law isn't that way.

If we were in France and I was a French lawyer, I would give you different advice--I'd tell you that if your needs are simple you can look it up in a book and do what the book says--because the law IS the same all over France: France is not divided up into 50 states each with its own estates & trusts law, and there are books about how to DIY your legal issues--I used to live there and I've seen them. But I'm in the US and I'm assuming you're here too, or maybe in Canada, which is also divided up into provinces with their own laws. That's the problem, and the reason you can't just go look this up in a book. (You can download state-specific LegalZoom forms all you want, but they are not at all customized with your needs or intentions in mind, and you can't sue LegalZoom for malpractice if they mess something up or fail to update their forms when the law changes.)

When you start getting paranoid about lawyers scratching each other's backs, remember that I'm an intellectual property litigator and I gain nothing, nada, zip, from telling you to go see an estates and trusts lawyer in whatever state you're in. That helps me not in the slightest. My clients are giant companies arguing about patents. I have nothing to gain from telling you to call a completely different kind of lawyer whom I don't even know who practices in some other state.

And look at it this way: if you were involved in a contentious divorce, would you DIY it? Would you try and handle your own divorce and just trust that it would go how you wanted it to? Not unless you're nuts, and cheap rather than frugal (a.k.a. pennywise and pound foolish). People sometimes go nuts when their relatives die. Siblings sometimes try to steal from each other, long-lost relatives come out of the woodwork, loving aunts contest their brother's will when he leaves "too much" to a beloved niece... it's crazy. It's a contentious divorce, squared. Why would you inflict that on your loved ones, when for $700 you could've done it right?


grantmeaname

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #60 on: July 05, 2013, 12:42:56 PM »
...
So on one hand we have six attorneys calmly stating reasoned opinions about the very numerous possible pitfalls of a DIY will, and on the other we have a single layperson arguing that it's a terrible idea and responding to reasoned conversation with hyperbole and shrillness. By the way, of the dozens of scenarios listed so far in the thread, not one violates all eight of your pulled-out-the-ass maxims. Hell, unmarried individuals and renters couldn't possibly violate some of them!

If you think not getting a will and saving the $700 is the right decision (or, hell, $3000, which doesn't seem appreciably different to me), I guess I can respect that. But there has never been nearly this much contention over any other DIY question in more than a year of the forum and tens of thousands of posts, and I think that says a lot about the complexity of estate law and the genuine necessity of getting it done right.

DoubleDown

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #61 on: July 05, 2013, 01:43:03 PM »

So on one hand we have six attorneys calmly stating reasoned opinions about the very numerous possible pitfalls of a DIY will, and on the other we have a single layperson arguing that it's a terrible idea and responding to reasoned conversation with hyperbole and shrillness. By the way, of the dozens of scenarios listed so far in the thread, not one violates all eight of your pulled-out-the-ass maxims. Hell, unmarried individuals and renters couldn't possibly violate some of them!


Clarifications:

- I never said hiring an attorney is a terrible idea. I said it's very reasonable to DIY if you invest the time to understand the complexities. Anyone not comfortable doing it on their own should hire an attorney.

- I'm not the single layperson arguing against 6 attorneys. Several others (including attorneys) have chimed in saying there are situations in which people can adequately do it themselves.

- Sorry you think I was being shrill or using hyperbole, but it was my estimation that the counter-argument was doing exactly that: Portraying all these potential problems in contesting the will, which I was attempting to describe as unlikely and that can be handled.

- All of the "problem scenarios" described in this thread presuppose some kind of contention over the deceased person's wishes. If there is no contention, there's no problem (barring some other kind of hangup in transferring assets). Not quite sure where you are going here.

I don't need to convince anyone, and I really am not trying to (though it surely does appear that way). There's a tide of opinion from the lawyers that no one should DIY, I thought I could offer a real-world example that it can be done, that you don't need to feel intimidated by the legal system. Good luck to all in whatever you choose.

DoubleDown

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #62 on: July 05, 2013, 01:44:40 PM »
DD, I share your perspective on this.

I'd add two clarifications to it:

- If your family situation is stable, your asset distribution simple, and in the case of guardianship your children's guardian competent and reliable then for a younger person the risk of DIY is low.  The cost of repeatedly updating wills with legal advice as you get older may become high.  The older you get (more likely to die soon) and the more complicated the estate or family situation is the riskier DIY is - and as you get older the likelihood of cost in modification gets lower.  And note all discussion is of risk, not certainties, because there is risk in any estate transaction (with or without a competent lawyer).  Hopefully the legal advice reduces the risk, but it doesn't eliminate it.  Like all things it is making a risk/reward decision and that will depend on the situation.

- As to your assertion that it is extremely unlikely a judge will ignore the wishes of the deceased that is quite correct, but I don't think that is the risk people are trying to mitigate.  There are very significant costs associated with legal challenges to the will (time, money and other opportunity costs) even if the end result is the distribution matching the desires of the deceased.  I believe that is the primary real risk one attempts to mitigate with professional legal advice.  Again, the underlying assumption being that legal advice reduces that risk by reducing the likelihood the will can be challenged to the degree a judge must rule and arguments be given.  Whether that reduction of risk is worth the upfront cost depends again on the situation and a number of difficult to evaluate factors.

Agreed, thanks for adding!

grantmeaname

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #63 on: July 05, 2013, 01:51:29 PM »
- I never said hiring an attorney is a terrible idea.
You're right. Upon rereading, the first page is much more measured than I thought.

Quote
- All of the "problem scenarios" described in this thread presuppose some kind of contention over the deceased person's wishes. If there is no contention, there's no problem (barring some other kind of hangup in transferring assets). Not quite sure where you are going here.
I'm saying that the list contains several items that alone are sufficient to cause a headache, but the way you describe it each item is necessary and any one thing being done correctly is a shield against misfortune. I am not a lawyer and don't even play one on tv, but I can think of scenarios for many of them that would lead to stress and trouble even if the other items were all optimal.

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #64 on: July 05, 2013, 03:54:32 PM »
So, I am a lawyer, and I don't have a will (yet). I fully intend on having one, drafted by an attorney who knows what they are doing. I am sure that in some situations, a DIY will could work out beautifully for someone. But shit happens. Shit you don't expect, and I don't want my death to cause anyone any unneeded stress.

Case in point.  I had a family member die nearly two years ago. They had a form will drafted from the internet. Very simple estate (just some land, house on the land needed to be torn down, no assets), and it was all left to one person (a distant family member). Should have been simple without any problems. In a perfect world, the form will would have covered what needed to be covered, if only everyone behaved themselves.

To make a long story short, another long lost family member decided to contest the will (he would have inherited if this family member had died intestate). But since I was also an heir at law (though not named in the will), I was identified as an "interested" party. It really sucked to be involved in something contentious while trying to mourn the loss of a relative. Prior to this person contesting the will, I had been in touch with the beneficiary who offered to give me some special family heirlooms (pictures of my grandparents (long since deceased) as well as letters from my father (also long deceased) that she had no need for and I didn't even know existed. Once this other family member contested the will, the beneficiary cut me off from any communication and I will probably never see those pictures or those letters.

The thing that should be pointed out is the reason this person decided to contest the will is because it was a form will made without an attorney. They thought it would be easy pickings. But it turned out to be anything but simple, and the case is still in probate (it's been nearly 2 years now), and I am no longer talking to the person who contested the will (nor is anyone else in the family, for that matter). Perhaps it wouldn't be such an issue if the people named in the will were the same as those who would inherit if you died intestate, so this story may have limited traction. This is just a cautionary tale.

And no, there is no guarantee that a lawyer drafted will would have fared any better, but I bet if the will had been drafted by an attorney, this person would never have tried to contest it. The form will could be an easy target. All I know is that this whole situation has created a lot of conflict and sadness within my family because one person decided to try for a big payout. All it takes is one person to make shit complicated, and that person could come out of nowhere.

Anyway. Sorry for the long post... The upshot is, do whatever you want to do, but sometimes it isn't so bad to be risk-averse, especially when you are talking about a highly emotional issues such as death.

 

Daleth

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #65 on: July 05, 2013, 08:18:10 PM »
I don't need to convince anyone, and I really am not trying to (though it surely does appear that way). There's a tide of opinion from the lawyers that no one should DIY, I thought I could offer a real-world example that it can be done, that you don't need to feel intimidated by the legal system.

If you DIY'd your will and you're still alive, you are not yet a real world example of anything other than that it's possible to download a form off the internet (or read a few books and write something up) and call it a will. The question is whether that's a good idea.

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #66 on: July 06, 2013, 08:07:33 PM »
I've just spent months working on my estate plan (and still am not finished).

I heartily recommend reading Nolo's estate planning book. If you can't make it through that book, then you should definitely hire a lawyer. It's easy to read and extremely helpful.

After I read it, I hired a lawyer. All told, about $4K for all my planning documents (revocable trust, will, powers of attorney, health care documents, paying him to transfer the title of my house, etc.). I had some specific needs that might have jacked up the price, but he was extremely helpful in explaining things that I didn't understand and bringing up topics that I hadn't considered (even after all my independent research). He also was knowledgeable about the relevant state laws and recommended things that related to that.

But one of the main reasons I hired a lawyer was as someone else has pointed out: "There are very significant costs associated with legal challenges to the will (time, money and other opportunity costs) even if the end result is the distribution matching the desires of the deceased. I believe that is the primary real risk one attempts to mitigate with professional legal advice."

I also was sued one (car accident). It was handled entirely by the insurance company, but it still was a wearying experience (took nearly two years to resolve).

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #67 on: July 08, 2013, 03:41:57 PM »
No.  As a lawyer it is always more difficult to work on a document someone else has prepared imo and, worse, it takes more time which is equal to more expense for a client.   

I hate when I'm asked to review a non-lawyer's draft of a legal document.  This happened recently when I was given a complex bylaw to review that had been drafted by an engineer (from a template).  Nightmare task with mistakes everywhere, cross referencing completely off, and unenforceable terms.  I was never confused by it, just frustrated that it took longer than it needed to.   

With legal documents if you start from the beginning with your own template and client instructions there is a process and a checklist that you go through in order.  This saves time and money every time in my experience.
Speaking as the customer who has to deal with the lawyer's staff, I've always found it difficult to fill out the worksheets and the templates and whatever other forms they use.  The forms ask for data & information without necessarily suggesting where the solution is going.  If I knew more about the concepts beforehand then I'd be better able to answer the questions.  Besides, maybe I'm only there to update one aspect of a will.  If I have to start all over again then I want to be assured that such an approach is truly necessary and not just a rigid mindset.

I think it also helps said customers to use these programs to familiarize themselves with the concepts and the jargon so that they can understand more of the lawyer's perspective instead of having to just be blissfully ignorant taken care of.  Especially if they encounter someone who has an attitude of "I'm the lawyer, I'm in charge".

You, the lawyer, could pretend to be interested in the customer's effort while surreptitiously using the conversation as an excuse to fill out your own worksheet and proceed through your own process.  Who knows, the customer may be using their DIY will as a way to decide what lawyer to use.

But, hey, if you have more business than you want then I agree that you should quickly turn these customers away so that they can stop wasting their time... and yours.

SnackDog

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #68 on: July 08, 2013, 03:51:32 PM »
We had a very experienced estate attorney sort all our affairs several years ago: wills, trust, healthcare directives, powers of attorney. He was extremely helpful. As I recall it was about $700.

totoro

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #69 on: July 08, 2013, 04:12:11 PM »
No.  As a lawyer it is always more difficult to work on a document someone else has prepared imo and, worse, it takes more time which is equal to more expense for a client.   

I hate when I'm asked to review a non-lawyer's draft of a legal document.  This happened recently when I was given a complex bylaw to review that had been drafted by an engineer (from a template).  Nightmare task with mistakes everywhere, cross referencing completely off, and unenforceable terms.  I was never confused by it, just frustrated that it took longer than it needed to.   

With legal documents if you start from the beginning with your own template and client instructions there is a process and a checklist that you go through in order.  This saves time and money every time in my experience.

Speaking as the customer who has to deal with the lawyer's staff, I've always found it difficult to fill out the worksheets and the templates and whatever other forms they use.  The forms ask for data & information without necessarily suggesting where the solution is going.  If I knew more about the concepts beforehand then I'd be better able to answer the questions.  Besides, maybe I'm only there to update one aspect of a will.  If I have to start all over again then I want to be assured that such an approach is truly necessary and not just a rigid mindset.

I think it also helps said customers to use these programs to familiarize themselves with the concepts and the jargon so that they can understand more of the lawyer's perspective instead of having to just be blissfully ignorant taken care of.  Especially if they encounter someone who has an attitude of "I'm the lawyer, I'm in charge".

You, the lawyer, could pretend to be interested in the customer's effort while surreptitiously using the conversation as an excuse to fill out your own worksheet and proceed through your own process.  Who knows, the customer may be using their DIY will as a way to decide what lawyer to use.

But, hey, if you have more business than you want then I agree that you should quickly turn these customers away so that they can stop wasting their time... and yours.

Me, the lawyer uses no fill in forms for my clients as I do not work for individuals.  I do not do wills. 

My practice is highly specialized and works extremely efficiently.  I have good processes that are designed to keep costs down. 

I obtain most of the funds required for this social justice work and I make sure the money is used to create as much progress as possible.

I would suggest that before you jump to conclusions you consider the fact that you do not know everything about what it means to be a lawyer.  You may have a point about forms and wasting your time, but I am not involved in such exercises.  I am involved in correcting documents drafted by non-lawyers and it is usually inefficient.

I might in fact turn down a client that wants me to review their own badly drafted document rather than start from a new one and cross-referencing because what I can accomplish with my time is more important to me than how many billable hours I put in.  That is not to say that I do not care about feelings and relationships, but this is my life we are talking about here too.

I work part-time by choice and have no desire not to make an impact during those hours. 

kkbmustang

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #70 on: July 12, 2013, 05:40:40 AM »
I'm sure I will get all manner of "but my estate isn't that big comments," so just substitute numbers that are smaller but in excess of the combined lifetime gift and estate tax exemption amount of $5.25 million if you are so inclined. This happens all the time. He probably had a lawyer draft his will too. But I guarantee you it wasn't an estate tax attorney. If it was, they did a piss poor job.

http://www.abajournal.com/mobile/article/gandolfini_will_is_a_tax_catastrophe_estates_lawyer_says/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email

DoubleDown

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #71 on: July 12, 2013, 12:56:21 PM »
I had heard about Gandolfini's supposedly horrible estate plan, but haven't seen details yet about why it was considered to be such a wreck. I wonder why the attorney who said it's horrible thinks it's so bad, other than "there were a bunch of taxes paid." Without knowing the details, I certainly don't see the fact that taxes came out of his estate as necessarily poor planning -- with an estate that large you can expect to pay some hefty taxes as long as you are transferring your wealth to non-charitable causes.

I would assume he DID have his estate plan prepared by an estate planning attorney, which reinforces my assertion that it is very hit and miss whether you will get someone who actually knows what they're doing (well not really MY assertion, but the assertion of many of the attorneys that wrote the books I read that I related in this thread). It certainly pays to be knowledgeable on this subject so you can discern whether or not things are being done properly.

IANAL, but like I said earlier, some of the estate plans I've seen that were drafted by estate planning attorneys had me raising my eyebrows.

kkbmustang

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Re: Legalzoom or Lawyer- need a will
« Reply #72 on: July 12, 2013, 01:26:16 PM »
I had heard about Gandolfini's supposedly horrible estate plan, but haven't seen details yet about why it was considered to be such a wreck. I wonder why the attorney who said it's horrible thinks it's so bad, other than "there were a bunch of taxes paid." Without knowing the details, I certainly don't see the fact that taxes came out of his estate as necessarily poor planning -- with an estate that large you can expect to pay some hefty taxes as long as you are transferring your wealth to non-charitable causes.

I would assume he DID have his estate plan prepared by an estate planning attorney, which reinforces my assertion that it is very hit and miss whether you will get someone who actually knows what they're doing (well not really MY assertion, but the assertion of many of the attorneys that wrote the books I read that I related in this thread). It certainly pays to be knowledgeable on this subject so you can discern whether or not things are being done properly.

IANAL, but like I said earlier, some of the estate plans I've seen that were drafted by estate planning attorneys had me raising my eyebrows.

I agree, just because any taxes were paid doesn't mean it was a wreck. But, if more of those assets could have been legally sheltered in some way, but weren't? That's a problem.