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  • Basic Will

    We are looking to update our will, which is 14 years old. We are a mid-career married couple with no kids (will not change) with assets >$1 million in the form of home, disparate retirement accounts, brokerage account, cash (nothing exotic) we'd like to leave to our parents. It seems like a simple will (e.g. Legal Zoom) would suffice, but I've seen several comments about how wills can quickly become complicated. Is there anything we need to consider before moving forward? In our case, what would the advantage of an in-person legal advisor be? What complicates a will? Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Leaving assets to go up a generation isn't always advisable. It could be fine to define that as the primary for now, but having secondary options (church, school, , a new park for the town, goodwill, nephew, me, etc) might be a good consideration.

    I'd ask you - what are you changing from your 14 year old will? Why? How will it be different? What has changed?

    An in person advisor can get to know you, and offer a personal touch. If you just need something simple, seems okay to keep it simple.

    Kids, divorces/separations, ownership of real estate/business/something else with others can complicate things. Outstanding legal litigation might as a physician?

    Do you need to define an executor of your estate? I'm not sure.

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    • #3
      A good T&E attorney can ask the questions that you don't know to ask. Like @adventure, I would be concerned about leaving your estate to the previous generation because, practically speaking, they won't be around when you pass. Of course, I'm presuming that your initial beneficiaries would be your respective spouses, so it's even more unlikely they will be around when you both have passed.

      LWT's can be changed without too much fuss and most attorneys will give you an estimate of what their service should cost for a particular need. What you need to be thinking about is the second-to-die because that is when the situation may change drastically. The surviving spouse may very well remarry and may have stepchildren that s/he wants to include. However, that can be addressed with a later rewrite.

      Might be worth it to get a referral to an experienced T&E attorney and buy an hour or two of consult time to get a better idea of whether your situation is as simple as it seems.
      Financial planning, investment management and CPA services for medical and high-income professionals | 270-247-6087

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      • #4
        I would recommend against any "legal advisors."  What you need is an attorney.  In most states it's illegal for an "advisor" to render legal advice or prepare legal documents on your behalf (aka unauthorized practice of law).  Still, these people pop up from time to time.

        A simple document leaving everything to parents should only be a couple hours of work from start to finish, and there are plenty of attorneys who will do simple wills for a fixed fee.  Crack open the phone book or the google and you should be able to shop that around pretty easily.  Anywhere from $100-$300.

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        • #5


          A simple document leaving everything to parents should only be a couple hours of work from start to finish, and there are plenty of attorneys who will do simple wills for a fixed fee.  Crack open the phone book or the google and you should be able to shop that around pretty easily.  Anywhere from $100-$300.
          Click to expand...


          @Craigy, I typically agree with you, but I wouldn't trust anything from any attorney who was so hard up for work that s/he would charge $100 for even the simplest of wills. Or $200. Even in Mayfield, KY.
          Financial planning, investment management and CPA services for medical and high-income professionals | 270-247-6087

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          • #6







            A simple document leaving everything to parents should only be a couple hours of work from start to finish, and there are plenty of attorneys who will do simple wills for a fixed fee.  Crack open the phone book or the google and you should be able to shop that around pretty easily.  Anywhere from $100-$300.
            Click to expand…


            @craigy, I typically agree with you, but I wouldn’t trust anything from any attorney who was so hard up for work that s/he would charge $100 for even the simplest of wills. Or $200. Even in Mayfield, KY.
            Click to expand...


            "I leave everything to ______" takes about two and a half minutes to draft     For a client worth $100 or $1B, effort is the same.

            These guys aren't hard up, to them it's just an extra $100 or $200 that takes them maybe 15 minutes of total effort plus keeping secretary busy.  I remember a CLE where a speaker said he could prep a will with macros in under 30 seconds.  You do a thousand of these a year and that's some serious money.

            I agree, OP should probably be spending more money on some higher-level advice, but if he's a cheapskate it's still better to get a real attorney-reviewed will than an internet form.  I'd rather a $100 budget attorney drafted will than a legalzoom internet concoction.

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            • #7
              Thanks for all your thoughts.

              • Adventure

                • Good point re: having a secondary options.

                • Uh...not sure where that 14 year will is these days. We were fast on our way to becoming 400k in debt at that point and weren't too worried about to whom we'd leave our assets to since there were none! It would change b/c we actually have assets (though the will probably presumed we would), would have secondary options (good point) and we'd have a plan for where to leavethe most beloved animals in our lives. Should probably drag out the old will and see what it actually says.

                • Will probably need an executor - another thing to think about



              • jpfox

                • Yes, other surviving spouse in line first, then parents

                • We aren't sure what we'd if it didn't go to our parents so I guess kicking that can down the road seems most likely right now

                • Re: remarrying...strange thought in my happily married brain but of course one to think about



              • Craigy

                • Ah yes, meant lawyer



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              • #8
                Mine took about half an hour and was free.  We filled out a simple worksheet beforehand with some free-text areas for more complex stuff.  We did it with the JAG office on base so that's why it was free...might check LegalZoom as well.

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                • #9
                  The problem with wills in many locations is probate. You should understand the implications of wills in your county and state before deciding whether to forgo a more complex estate plan.

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                  • #10
                    Since you may not have an extensive list and complicated holdings, a basic will MAY be the easiest.  That said, there's more than simply last will.  Power of attorney;  healthcare proxy are two things that come to mind that would be good to have.

                    One of the nice things that meeting with attorney to setup the Living trust, is it goes through a battery of questions we never thought of and contingencies.  It really helps organize things and keep your wishes with minimal outside interference/challenges.

                    As @jfoxcpacfp said, living trusts have their downfalls/traps too if not diligent.

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                    • #11
                      We just signed wills (and poas, hcps, living wills) today. I used a real live lawyer and was able to ask tons of questions. We are not the simple first marriage, kids only from this union (we aren't married so other things to consider, son from prior marriage on his end) - so that was part of why I wanted to have access to someone. He charged a flat fee so not by the hour. We had typical wills naming guardian and executors (and back ups) but also with a  testamentary trust and option to create a QTIP/marital type trust so that if either of us re-marry, divorce, etc, those folks won't get the estate, it'll flow to kid(s) from this current marriage. I highly doubt I would have known to even ask about this if I did legalzoom etc. My head still hurts from trying to understand all the different rules here...

                      Still wondering if we/ one of us needs an ILIT tho.

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                      • #12
                        Also, just having parents as beneficiaries is very risky IMO, I'd name a backup - perhaps a close friend, relative, charity etc.

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                        • #13




                          Also, just having parents as beneficiaries is very risky IMO, I’d name a backup – perhaps a close friend, relative, charity etc.
                          Click to expand...


                          If the turkey exploded at thanksgiving dinner, sure, but usually this risk can be mitigated by writing a new will when the parents pass.

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                          • #14




                            Still wondering if we/ one of us needs an ILIT tho.
                            Click to expand...


                            You may need an ILIT if you have or foresee having an estate tax problem.  Otherwise it's a question of whom that money gets dumped upon when you die and how you want to control it.  But you don't have to have an ILIT to handle that.

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                            • #15







                              Still wondering if we/ one of us needs an ILIT tho.
                              Click to expand…


                              You may need an ILIT if you have or foresee having an estate tax problem.  Otherwise it’s a question of whom that money gets dumped upon when you die and how you want to control it.  But you don’t have to have an ILIT to handle that.
                              Click to expand...


                              There is an ex wife (no more alimony tho) and a minor child with min life insurance requirements (which he is more than meeting). It's possible she could try to get more of the policy for herself - try to get more "child support". No estate tax issue, more of a control the money issue.

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