How do I know when to Write a Will? Am I too young?

Last year, we commissioned an independent study which showed that only 28% of Americans had a legal, up-to-date Will in place. Even if we took out the under 35’s from this survey, it showed that around two thirds of Americans did not have an up-to-date Will in place. The results clearly showed that most people don’t know when to write a Will, and that there is a common misconception that the best time to write one is later on in life.

When we looked specifically at under 35 year olds, nearly 90 percent of young American adults did not have an up-to-date Will in place!

Why are so many people woefully underprepared for their own death? Well, on a daily basis not many of us like to think about our inevitable demise. Frankly, Its just morbid and something that most of us don’t want to think about. Like going to the dentist or sitting an exam, there are some uncomfortable scenarios that we put off for as long as possible. Writing a Will should not be one of them, but it seems that the thought of going over your possessions and paying a lawyer is just too much effort for most people. Granted, writing a Will isn’t fun and when you’re young there are a million and one exciting things you would rather do but it’s really not such a long and laborious process as you might think. To help you see the benefits of having a Will we have outlined the reasons why you’re (almost) never too young to write one.

When to write a Will

When to write a Will? Death comes to us all

You shouldn’t think of writing a Will as a once-in-a-lifetime activity. You do not have to wait for the perfect time when your family and financial situation has permanently settled down. We encourage everybody to write their Will today, and then update it throughout your life as your circumstances change.

You have no idea how long you will live. But writing your Will means that if something were to happen, then you would be prepared. If you’re under 18, don’t worry about a Will just yet as in most States you need to be 18 or older to write a Will. But once you are 18 or over, it is your responsibility to outline how you would like your assets to be distributed after death or that privilege will be taken from you. Knowing when to write a Will depends more on what stage of life you are at and how much you want to protect your assets and family. If you believe that you have anything of worth such as a house, savings or children, then there really is no reason to delay until you’re older.

Wills aren’t just about Money

Time for another statistic: over 80 percent of millennials (ages 18-36) do not have a Will! but of those that do, 25 percent are out of date. Although the people in this age range might think that a Will is unnecessary as they are at a lower risk from dying, no one is immune to fatal unexpected accidents or diseases.

Having a Will isn’t just for wealthy people as it simply declares your wishes and provides instructions for your family. Even if you don’t have many assets to bequest, a Will can outline the guardians for your children; allow you to make charitable bequests, or even decide who should NOT be receiving anything from your estate. If you are fairly young and healthy, you absolutely need a Will:

  • if you own property or have savings, stocks and bonds;
  • if you have children, and
  • if you are joining the military or other occupation where your life is at risk.

Removing Burdens

If you die without a Will, the government official in your State of residence will decide how to allocate all of your property and assets based on State probate laws. For most people, this normally means that your closest relatives, spouses or siblings will receive your property. However, the law does not take into account your individual circumstances and it doesn’t know or care if there are unresolved family disputes. This could have a terrible result for your loved ones as distant relatives, ex-partners and uninvolved parents could be the ones to legally gain from your death. Would you not prefer to be the person that determines where your hard-earned money, cherished possessions and beloved children go?

If you are in any non-traditional relationship, for example, not married or cohabiting with a partner,  and you do not have a Will, your partner will receive absolutely nothing from your estate. Your parents are probably first in line, and your partner is not even in the picture for intestate succession (distribution of your estate without a Will).

Another important factor about not having a Will is that it virtually guarantees that your surviving family will face more costs and stress. Your estate will incur extra fees and delays due to the lack of a Will. Your family will also have to deal with the estate being distributed by the State which could result in arguments and expensive legal battles. These added burdens can all be avoided by simply having a Will which will ensure your final wishes and give your family peace of mind.

Cost can be a factor

When writing a Will there are three main options with varying costs.

Your most expensive option is to work with a estate planning attorney. This approach has one key advantage in that you can receive legal advice if your situation is complicated, or you think that your estate may benefit from advanced estate planning techniques. However, if you do not need this sophisticated legal advice you may be paying $800-$1,000 for a professional that you do not need.

At the other end of the spectrum is a blank, do-it-yourself Will kit. These are usually very cheap and can sometimes even be free. But they come with the distinct disadvantage that they may not actually work and you may create a Will that could cause more aggravation for your loved ones than dying without a Will. In this case something may not be better than nothing.

Most of the high profile cases of people running into issues with do-it-yourself Will kits, come from these blank form kits. Commonly people make mistakes like trying to list all of their assets in the Will (you should never do this), they fail to include alternate scenarios for example, somebody in the Will pre-deceasing them, and they cannot include sophisticated clauses like trusts for minors or lifetime interest trusts for partners.

The third approach is using an online Will writing service like the one offered at USLegalWills.com. This process is analogous to using tax preparation software to file your taxes, where you are guided through the process of preparing your Will. In fact, it’s a lot simpler than filing your taxes.

The online Will writing advantage

There are a number of key advantages to using an online Will writing service to prepare your own Will. The most obvious is a cost advantage. Our service allows you to prepare a Will and have one year of unlimited updates to that document for $34.95. About 95 percent cheaper than an estate planning attorney.

The service is also much more convenient. You can sit on your sofa, turn on your iPad, and write your Will in about 20 minutes. You can start the process this evening, and when the system asks a tricky question, like appointing a guardian, you can save your work, discuss the appointment with friends and family members and then return at a later date. So the answer to “When to write a Will?” could be right now, or just after dinner.

Online Will services also offer much more than simple Will writing. The service at USLegalWills.com for example, includes the option to document your assets for your Executor through a type of Executor Handbook in our MyLifeLocker service. We also allow you to name trusted individuals that we call “keyholders” who can gain access to your important files at the appropriate time (and not before). You can also upload important files to a digital vault.

Stop procrastinating!

If you’re not sure when to write a Will, then write one now. You don’t know what is around the corner for you or anyone else, so don’t put of making a wise decision today because you would rather spend the money on something which will not help your family in the long run. Having a Will in place is the best use of both your time and money. No matter what age you are, we all have treasured possessions and assets that we want to see in the hands of our loved ones – make sure that happens with a Will!

How do you name guardians for children? – your Last Will and Testament

Why you should name guardians for children

Many people think the time to make a Will is when they’re old and two steps from the grave. That is not the case. Whenever anyone begins to acquire assets or income, they should think about a Will. On the personal side, whenever anyone becomes a parent, they need to anticipate that they may not survive until the child becomes an adult. It may be unlikely, but having a Will in place provides some insurance, and allows you to name guardians for children.

These are some of the main advantages of having a Will if you have children. If you have children, a Will is a must.

Guardians for children

Naming guardians for children.

A guardian of is someone who takes the place of the parent and assumes the responsibility of raising the child until the child reaches the age of majority, typically 18 years of age. Raising the child means caring for their education, attending to all the child’s health issues, Continue reading

Planned giving: the state of charitable bequests in the US

“A note on Privacy: the protection and security of the documents created on our web site are of critical importance. In particular, we cannot access any information contained in a specific Will, nor can we read a person’s Will. However, we are able to access aggregated data on planned giving from an encrypted database folder that summarizes the number of times particular choices have been made within our service. We cannot connect this information to individual accounts. It is this data that has been mined to provide the information in this post”

Background to our study

At USlegalWills.com, we help thousands of Americans create their Last Will and Testament. A Will contains a lot of important information, such as who will be the guardians of your children and who will receive your house after you pass on, and it can also serve as a great way to give back to the community upon your death. Leaving money or assets to a charity is called “planned giving,” which USlegalWills.com offers for all its Wills. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, in 2015, individual giving, which makes up the vast majority of contributions received by non-profit organizations, “amounted to $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1 percent in current dollars from 2013.” Ever since the Great Recession in 2008, “individual giving has been increasing in both current and inflation-adjusted dollars for the last couple years, although it has not recovered to pre-recession levels.”

Charitable giving at USLegalWills.com

Actual word cloud from bequests made at USLegalWills.com

With this charitable giving trend on the rise, we were interested in the level of “planned giving” going on in the United States. According to Russell James, the number of people aged 55+ with a charitable estate beneficiary hovers between 5% an 6%.

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Why you need a Will – and why your excuses make no sense.

It seems that the subject of making a Will is something that most people simply want to avoid as much as possible. Every survey ever done about the topic shows that the majority of adult Americans have not made a Will. We just avoid the subject and dig our heads in the sand. But you need a Will. No matter what your circumstance, you need a Will.

No doubt there are many reasons for the excuses. None of us wants to think about our own mortality. Some people are even superstitious enough to think that making a Will might hasten our own demise. However, even if you do not have a penny to your name, you should make a Will.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about making a Will. Here we talk about the confusion that people have about the reality of why you need a Will.

Need a Will Continue reading

Notorious Wills of the Rich and Famous

The lifestyles of the rich and famous are endlessly fascinating. Sometimes they become even more fascinating when they are no longer with us. You would think that the privileged among us would have it all sorted out when it comes to estate planning and wills. However, as you will see from these notorious cases, all too often they make huge errors. Here are some stories of the most complicated and prolonged disputes over wills and estates.

Anna Nicole Smith

Last Will and Testament

The ill-fated and rather tragic life of Anna Nicole Smith involves not just one, but two estate disputes. Anna Nicole married J. Howard Marshall in 1994 when he was 89 years old. Anna Nicole, a former Playboy Playmate was just 26 at the time of their marriage. Some saw the 62-year age gap between the couple as an excuse to label the bride a gold digger – you can of course draw your own conclusions! Continue reading

Choose a Guardian for your children – Your Last Will and Testament

One of the most important questions that you must ask yourself when you are making a Last Will and Testament is how to choose a guardian for your children. None of us ever want to think that we won’t be around to care for our children until they are adults. However, sometimes that becomes a reality.

It is not very likely to happen, but you do need to make sure that there is a provision for someone to look after your children in the event of your death. You can do that by making a Will and giving some detailed thought about how to choose a guardian for your children.

A Will allows parents to name the person or people who you would like to appoint as guardian for your children. This is one of the most important provisions in a Last Will and Testament for all those of us who have minor children.

If you do not choose a guardian in your Will, one will be appointed for you by the court. The decision of who looks after your children will be taken out of your hands. To avoid this, it is very important to choose a guardian in your Last Will and Testament.

Choose a guardian

What are the things that you must think about when you choose a guardian? Here are some questions that you should think about. Continue reading

The Free Last Will and Testament service – not all it seems

How much should you be paying for a Will? Why should you pay anything when just a few clicks away, you can find a free Last Will and Testament service? How can the exact same document cost $800 from an attorney, and absolutely nothing from a website? how do you choose how much to pay for your Will?

All interesting questions which we will answer in this article.

Free Last Will and Testament

What is a Will?

To understand the variation in the cost of a Will, you have to understand what makes a document a Last Will and Testament.

A Will declares itself to be your Will. It typically appoints an Executor who is responsible for following the instructions laid out in the document. It then goes on to describe how you would like to distribute your things after you are gone.

To make this a legal document you must print it on a piece of paper, date it, and sign it in the presence of two witnesses, who both in turn sign the document. Continue reading

Pets in a Will – how do you make sure that your pets are cared for?

Should You Make Provision for Your Pets in a Will?

We have all seen the stories of eccentric millionaires who leave their fortune to their pets in a Will. Their relatives are cut out of the Will, but Fido receives a very generous legacy. But it’s not as easy as you may think to leave something to your pets in a Will.

One of the most famous of these cases is that of billionaire Leona Helmsley’s dog. He was the lucky pooch who inherited $12 million from her estate. The Maltese dog, perhaps appropriately named “Trouble” was one of the major benefactors of her estate. Some of the family members weren’t quite so fortunate. Two grandchildren received nothing, and Leona evicted her son’s widow after his death.  Trouble did not get quite as much money as he bargained for as a judge later reduced the amount to $2 million. The grandchildren who Leona excluded were awarded $6 million and the balance went to charity.

Pets in a Will

Leona Helmsley earned the title of “Queen of Mean” during her lifetime. She served 18 months in prison for tax evasion. Unfortunately, her gift to her dog made Trouble the most hated dog in the country. He is said to have received numerous death and kidnapping threats, so had to have a permanent security guard with him.  He lived in style, but only spent about $190,000 a year. Most of that was on his security detail. Although we are sure there was plenty left over for grooming and food. Continue reading

How to write a Will – key steps to successfully writing your Will

Do you want to know how to write a Will? Even though writing a Will is one of the most important things that everyone ought to do, most of us are very good at avoiding the issue. Most people put off the task of writing a Will, even though it is one of the most important things that we can do for our family.

The one thing that you should not be apprehensive about is that you do not know how to write a Will. There are plenty of resources out there to help you.

None of us really wants to think about our own demise, so putting off writing a Will seems like the easier option. Unfortunately, the reality is that if we don’t deal with the task of writing a Will we leave our loved ones with huge potential difficulties.

How to write a Will

Most people don’t make a Will – but you should not use this as an excuse! Writing a Will ought to be a very painless process and it can be quite affordable. Do not worry that you do not know how to write a Will. Continue reading

Writing your Will: we can help with the definitive guide

As with any task that comes to mind on odd occasions in your life, writing your Will can seem overwhelming. So much so, that most people don’t do it. However, if you are coming to this page, something that probably happened in your life to make you realize that writing a Will is a vitally important task.

Sadly most people who feel an immediate need to prepare their Will just do a Google search for a local estate planning attorney. They make an appointment, pay several hundreds or thousands of dollars and live with the peace of mind that the task is finally off their To Do list. As long as they don’t need to update it.

Writing your Will

However, with a little research, you will quickly understand that writing your Will needn’t be difficult, inconvenient or expensive

Here are ten quick steps to writing your Will; Continue reading

Considerations in writing a Will for Blended Families

What are blended families?

Blended families is a term that includes families for whom one or both partners have children from a previous marriage. In other words, your spouse may not be the biological parent of your children. Blended families have become increasingly common, especially as the divorce rate in many countries including the United States hovers around fifty percent. There are several nuances that emerge when you write a Will for a blended family situation.

Wills and blended families

Blended families have to balance bequests between children from previous marriages and the current marriage.

Put simply, if you leave everything to your spouse in your Will, and they are not the biological parent of your children, there is every chance that their life would move on. There is then a distinct possibility that your children may not even be a factor in their estate plan.

Blended Families illustrated

Let us take the following scenario:

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Are there even fewer Americans without Wills?

A number of surveys over the last few years have reported that anywhere from 55 percent to 64 percent of Americans have not written their Wills. However, one under-reported statistic is the number of people who have their Will in place, but made it so long ago, that it no longer reflects their current circumstance. At USLegalWills.com we wanted to explore the current state of Will writing in the US, and delve deeper into the issue of outdated Wills.

Executive summary

The USLegalWills.com survey was conducted within the United States by Google Consumer Surveys, June 2016, among 2,012 adults aged 18 and older, and has a root square mean error of 1.4%.

Results are weighted by age, gender, and region. For full information on Google Consumer Surveys’ methodology and validity, visit here.

  1. Across all age groups 28.4 percent of Americans had up-to-date Wills. 8.6% had a Will but it was out-of-date. 63% had no Will at all. This means that 71.6 percent of Americans do not have an up-to-date Will.
  2. Even when we focus on Americans over 35, two thirds don’t have an up-to-date Will.
  3. Only half of Americans over the age of 65 have up-to-date Wills in place.
  4. One in six Americans over the age of 65 have a Will that is out of date.
  5. Wealthy Americans are no more likely to have written their Will.
  6. Wealthy Americans are more likely to have an out-of-date Will.

Number of Americans without Wills

Our aggregated numbers show that 71.6 percent of Americans do not have an up-to-date Will. We rarely see the number of out-of-date Wills reported, but it makes a significant difference to the story and clearly demonstrates that there are significant improvements needed in the way that Will writing is presented to Americans.

Wills

We know that everybody needs a Will, and consistently over the years we’ve heard that around two thirds of Americans don’t have their Wills in place, but now knowing that nearly ten percent have an out-of-date Will adds to this concern. Continue reading

Making a Will; 5 reasons to not procrastinate

Thinking about Making a Will, but not managed to get started? don’t worry, you are not alone. Unfortunately, many people procrastinate the estate planning process for a variety of reasons. People might think that estate planning is complicated, time-consuming, or will cost them hundreds of dollars in fees.

Making a Will

According to a survey by legal insurance firm LawPRO, 56% of Canadian adults do not have a Will, more than half of them because they either don’t know how to get started or think they can’t afford to. The numbers are almost identical south of the border: the American Bar Association cites 55% of American adults as not having a Will or estate plan. Continue reading

A Joint Will, Mutual Wills, Reciprocal Wills explained

We get this question almost every day; “I would like a will for my husband and I. This is only letting me do one will. How do I get a joint Will that will allow us to give what we have to each other?

Joint Will

Couples have several options when writing a Will together. Among them are:

  • A Joint Will;
  • Mutual Wills;
  • A Reciprocal Will or Mirror Will.

Defining a Joint Will and Mutual Wills

A Joint Will is a single document that allows for a couple to combine their Last Will and Testament. Normally, one partner inherits the entire estate when the other dies. When the second partner dies, the estate will be handled as agreed to by both partners. Continue reading

Digital assets – meet LifeLocker, the essential Executor tool

The issue of Digital assets has come up again in the mainstream press. It was covered on the CBC in Canada and then was picked up by media outlets around the World. The Washington post ran with the headline

Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password

The Daily Mail in the UK also ran the story with the headline “Widow who wanted her dead husband’s Apple ID so she could play games on their iPad is refused and told to get a COURT order instead”. The Sydney Morning Herald also alerted its readers. Google news is claiming 19,000 separate news articles about Peggy Bush, the 72 year old Canadian widow who simply wanted to play some games on the family iPad. The card game stopped working so she wanted to update it. To do this, she needed her late husband’s Apple ID password.

Digital assets

The best option that Apple gave her was to create a new Apple ID, but this would mean re-purchasing all of the games that had already been purchased by her husband. There was no way of transferring the games from one Apple ID account to another.

Apple suggested that they would only be able to release the User ID and password of the account with a court order. The general reaction was that this was a little unsympathetic to the situation; all of Peggy’s late husband’s assets had been successfully transferred, and nobody, including banks and insurance companies, had required a court order to do this. Continue reading

A simple Will – From $0 to $1,000. How much should I pay?

You are already doing better than the vast majority of adults in the US. You know that you need a Will, and you are starting to do something about it. You have started researching the approaches to preparing a simple Will, and now you are thoroughly confused. How can it be that the same simple Will can cost absolutely nothing on some websites, and can cost a thousand dollars with an estate planning attorney. What exactly will you be getting in each case? and how much should you really be paying to write a simple Last Will and Testament?

Simple Will

What is a Will?

The most basic definition is that a Last Will and Testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of his or her property at death.

There are three key elements to a simple Will. Continue reading

The six most common errors in a do it yourself Will.

Every once in a while a news article appears that describes how a person made a mistake when preparing a “do it yourself Will”. The legal profession often latch onto these articles as a warning for anybody thinking of preparing their own do it yourself Will, suggesting that if the person in the article made a mistake, it follows that you should probably seek legal advice.

Clearly people make mistakes. Even lawyers make mistakes when preparing Wills, like this one who had a couple accidentally sign each other’s Wills. However, it would be disingenuous to use this example as a cautionary tale, and suggest that you should avoid using a lawyer because they always get things wrong.

So I have gathered up some recent news articles, and looked at some of our own support questions and listed the six most common mistakes people make when preparing a do it yourself Will.

do it yourself Wills Continue reading

I’m young, I’m single. Special considerations on writing a Will.

Most people have not got around to writing a Will. According to a recent survey 64% of adults in the US do not have a Last Will and Testament. The more significant concern though is that in the younger age groups (people under 35) the percentage is much higher.

90% of Americans aged 18-34 do not have a Will
80% of Americans aged 35-44 do not have a Will
83% of single Americans with children do not have a Will

The primary reason for this is that young single people simply don’t feel that they need a Will, and of those that do, writing a Will is certainly not an urgent task. It ends up being something that they simply haven’t “gotten around to”.

Writing a Will

Here are some considerations for young single people who fall into one of these two camps; the deniers and the procrastinators. Continue reading

Writing a Legal Will: the worst advice we have seen yet

writing a legal Will

Much of our customer support effort is spent on correcting misunderstandings that have usually arisen from bad information that has been posted on the Internet. As with anything that you do once or twice in your lifetime, the terms will be unfamiliar, and there will be a lot to learn. But the task is made that much more difficult by woefully incorrect information that proliferates on different “advice blogs”. The example at the top of the page is from a reasonably well respected resource at Nerdwallet (we couldn’t help but post a comment under their article, so they may have fixed it if you click through). But this staff writer, who doesn’t appear to have any legal training has written; Continue reading

Cost of a Will – from zero to $2000 and somewhere in between

Yeah right, $35 for a Last Will and Testament. There’s no way it can be legal

One of the ongoing challenges we face is explaining to people how our Wills at $34.95, can work in the same way as a Will written for $800. But also differentiate our service from a free download site, where the cost of a Will may be nothing or at most $5. So what exactly is the difference between a $5 Will, at $35 Will at USLegalWills.com and an $800 Will drawn up by an estate planning attorney?

Cost of a Will

When the cost of a Will is too little

Why would I pay $35 for a Will from you guys when I can get download one for free at freelegalforms.com

Continue reading