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 $39.95, 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?
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
(the freelegalforms website is provided for illustration only, we would rather not direct people to an actual free legal forms website)
Members of the legal profession will tell you that you get what you pay for when you prepare a Will, and to some extent we would agree. There are many free document downloads available that offer you little more than a Microsoft word “template”. The page will have a large heading sometimes in a scripty font saying “Last Will and Testament”. It will typically start with something like “this is the last Will and Testament of me___________ of ____(town), ____(State)____”
Then to give it a feel of authenticity, it will include some legal-type wording like “I hereby revoke all previous Wills, codicils and testamentary instruments”
The interesting point about these documents is that if it is signed at the end in the presence of two witnesses, then technically, it would be a legal Last Will and Testament. The question though is, will it actually work?
A well drafted Will is typically about 5 or 6 pages. It includes backups for key appointments like the Executor, Guardians and beneficiaries. It also has alternate plans for the distribution of the estate in case your whole family were involved in a horrendous accident.
There are also complicated legal clauses that need to be inserted into a Will including the creation of trusts for minor beneficiaries. A trust needs to be set up to protect the inheritance of a child, and this means appointing a trustee, determining the terms of the trust (at what age will the child receive everything?) and granting powers to the trustee to use the proceeds for the benefit of the child as they are growing up.
There are also many clauses that describe the powers granted to the Executor to invest the assets before they are distributed, hire professional help if needed, and further instructions on how assets should be divided between beneficiaries.
When you see a well drafted Will, you appreciate the hopeless inadequacy of a blank Microsoft word template. We scoured the internet for cheap Wills and found a site where the cost of a Will was $5. We laughed when we saw what we had paid for. This is the page for distributing the estate
It is literally a blank piece of paper. An estate planning attorney would actually struggle to complete this form.
When the cost of a Will is free or $5, you will struggle to prepare a legal Last Will and Testament.
When the cost of a Will is too much
There doesn’t appear to be a standard pricing for writing a Will with an estate planning attorney. Of course, there’s variability with the complexity of a Will, but even for the most common situations, the cost of a Will varies wildly. When I say a common situation, I mean something like, a couple with children where the first choice beneficiary is the spouse, and an alternate plan in case the both parents are involved in an accident together. In this situation the estate would be divided between the children. This would also require minor trusts to be set up, and guardians named for the children. There may also be a charitable bequest in there. This is the most frequent scenario for the users of USLegalWills.com. So what is the cost of a Will to cover this family when prepared by an estate planning attorney?
The answer is a range, and a wide range at that. You may be able to find a lawyer who would put this Will together for a couple of hundred dollars, but you may also find lawyers charging as much as $2000 for this exact same Will. So forget pricing for a moment, what is the true cost of a Will?
Let us first explore how this kind of Will is put together. Please don’t think that your lawyer will be typing up your Will using a blank sheet of paper and creating complex legal clauses based on they legal training. No. The most widely used software for legal professionals to create their Wills is from a company called “Interactive Legal” who have their estate planning software. The software promises to “”Improve your productivity – eliminate 50+ hours per year of drudgery”. In other words, the software does for the lawyer pretty much the same as what USLegalWills.com can do for you. Their brochure claims to “Boost your revenue by $50,000 or more – reduce drafting time, increase billable time”
Now we know that the lawyer will probably have an office clerk prepare your Will using this software, where does the $800 cost of a Will come from? Well, it’s driven by an expectation. A lawyer charges this simply because they can, and people are willing to pay for it. We are told that the Will is such an important document, that spending $800 preparing it, is tiny compared to the size of your estate, and making sure that “you get it right”.
A word of caution on preparing your Will through an estate planning lawyer who will provide the service for under $250. Please make sure they don’t require you to write them into the Will as the estate Executor. Many do this, and do not explain the fees which can be set both as a percentage of the estate, and also billed as an hourly rate. Some lawyers do both which is unconscionable. In this case the true cost of a Will is likely to be tens of thousands of dollars.
When the cost of a Will is just right
USLegalWills.com charges $39.95 for a Will that is going to look, word-for-word the same as a lawyer’s Will. We don’t offer legal advice, so you are not paying exorbitant legal fees for our time. We paid all of our legal fees up front in creating the service for you. We had every single path through our service signed off by estate planning attorneys, and we adapted our service from the same software used by lawyers. We are just giving you access to this software so you can write your own Will.
So how do we set the cost of a Will at $39.95? We do have running costs, including a support team who typically answer an email within the hour and answer all of your calls. This team is based in North America – no team member of USLegalWills.com is based overseas.
We also continually develop new services like the recently launched the ultimate Executor tool – MyLifeLocker service that helps your Executor locate your assets so that nothing is left behind. In addition, our service has to be updated to reflect changes in State and Federal laws. The laws have to be continually monitored, and changes implemented quickly.
We also have a marketing team who have to prepare blog posts, and staff our Twitter, Google+ , Facebook and Pinterest accounts.
By allowing everybody to update their Will through an online account, we invest in the security of our systems, backups of data, and infrastructure costs.
We have set the cost of a Will at USLegalWills.com to be as affordable as possible. We believe strongly that nobody should be priced out of preparing a Will, nor should anybody be forced to use a blank form kit that will likely create problems for loved ones.
Bear in mind that our $35 Wills are every bit as legal as a Will prepared by a $1000-an-hour lawyer, the only difference is that you don’t have to leave your home to write it, and you can update it at any time. Our mission is to allow everybody to have a quality Last Will and Testament, at a price that is fair.
Tim Hewson is one of the founders of USLegalWills.com.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets, and has contributed to articles in The New York Times, NY Metro Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and other leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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