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  • DIY Will Recommendations

    My dad asked me to help him figure out how to create a will, and I want to see if a DIY product is good enough. His estate is not that complicated, but I do want to make sure all of the important bases are covered (estate, legal POA, medical POA, etc.) I did a cursory search for online products and am thinking about U.S. Legal Forms.

    1. Does anyone have any experience regarding DIY wills? If so, what are the pros/cons.

    2. Is the U.S. Legals Forms product good? If not, any other recommendations?

    Thank you!


  • #2

    • Do you have siblings?

    • Is your mom still living?

    • Any "steps"

    • Large estate ($11+M)?

    • Does his state have an inheritance and/or estate tax?

    • Does he own real estate in any state besides the state of residence?

    • Are there any trusts involved?

    • Does he live in a CP (Community Property) state?


    If you answered yes to any of the above, I would recommend professional help. Otherwise, DIY is probably fine (@Hank may differ, and I would defer to him). I usually recommend Quicken WillMaker, but I don't know that there is a lot of difference in the various products. Here is a site with reviews for 2018.
    Financial planning, investment management and CPA services for medical and high-income professionals | 270-247-6087

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    • #3
      Ah, the Jolly Testator Who Makes His Own Will!

      There are lots of people who use NOLO or Legal Zoom.  You may not be around to see if this saves money over the long run compared to hiring an experienced trust and estate attorney admitted to practice in your state.

      Even with excellent lawyering and a no-contest clause, it's still possible to get mired in estate litigation.  The good or ill will of potential beneficiaries under the will is perhaps more important than the quality of the legal documents.

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      • #4
        See Johanna reply. If your Dad's got assets greater than a Mill or any of Johanna's bullet points your Dad needs some flavor of Trust. Also Wills are Public, Trusts are Private.

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        • #5
          The answer to a couple of those questions is "yes," so I will talk to my dad about going to an estate planning attorney. I thought that since my parents' intention is a straightforward 50-50 split of the estate between my brother and I when the time comes, a simple will and POA documents would suffice. It sounds like if they're not convinced that an estate planning attorney is worth it, either NOLO or Legal Zoom is fine as long as everyone is on the same page.

          Thank you!

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          • #6
            ... a attorney is also a 3rd party, which can help (1) teach about the process and (2) be "not you" to guide the process.

            Reading some sample wills before you meet w/ someone is a good way to start learning some terminology before the meetings begin.

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            • #7
              At a minimum, you should speak with an attorney just to ensure whatever you execute is actually a valid will in your state.

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              • #8
                I'm a big believer in DIY, but I never saw the point with wills.   Sure, they need occasional updating, but that's infequent.   So it's more or less a one time expense, and you can general get a competent estate lawyer to do a good job for a very reasonable price.

                Obviously even if you get some one to do it for you, you should make sure that you read the whole thing and understand it fully.  In your situation, it's probably straightforward, but they can be extremely complicated.

                I don't consider my financial situation to be all that complicated with respect to my heirs, but my will is quite complex in order to account for all possibilities and make sure as little as possible is lost to taxes.

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                • #9
                  I think it's cool to go into the attorney's office with a little education.  My library has Nolo with CDROM.

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                  • #10
                    All great points. I’ll see what my local library has on the topic, but it sounds like the general consensus is to have an estate planning attorney take care of it.

                    In the state where my parents live, which may or may not be the state where they retire, it looks like any estate over $20,000 has to go through the probate process whether there is a will or not. If the assets are held in a trust, then probate can be avoided, but there is the cost of creating the trust and then transferring the assets to it as well as maintaining the trust. The only assets that are likely to be transferred to the trust are two homes and a car; otherwise, the rest has options to list a beneficiary.

                    So, I’ll have to find out what is most cost efficient: creating/maintaining a trust potentially for a few decades or going through the probate process with a will. Any additional thoughts are appreciated.

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                    • #11
                      While it's hardly a replacement for comprehensive estate planning, depending on the state you may have options for joint tenency with right of survivorship for the house and a transfer on death title for the cars.

                      Hopefully your dad can do enough research on this to feel confident when (if?) he meets with an estate attorney.  A couple of hours reading high-yield material should be good bang for the buck.  100-200+ hours reading or drafting his own will probably isn't the best use of his time.

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                      • #12
                        If you're an employed physician, many hospitals / hospital systems have free or reduced fee legal counsel for common things like wills. We created a will via our employer a few years ago, and I don't believe we paid a dime.

                        So if you are an employee, check with HR to see if you have such a perk.

                        Also, in addition to a will (and perhaps a trust), I would consider completing a "Legacy Binder." I came across one put together by one of my favorite bloggers, a former hedge fund manager, and featured it in today's post. I'll be filling mine out shortly. It's not free, but at the cost of a paperback book, I consider it a bargain.

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                        • #13
                          A will does not get you out of probate. In my view, the minimum requirement should be a will and living trust. The trust will keep your family from having to deal with the time and expense of probate.

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