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?
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
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.
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”.
Here are some considerations for young single people who fall into one of these two camps; the deniers and the procrastinators. Continue reading
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
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
Everybody knows that they need to write a Will, but the stats show that only about a third of adults in the US have managed to get it done. Some say it’s the cost that puts people off, others say that it’s finding the time to make an appointment. In our experience of fielding calls through our customer service center, the real issue is that most people have no idea where to start. A very common call we receive is “I know I need to write a Will, what do I do?”. Here we have ten steps to go through to prepare your Will.
1. Choose your approach
You can take one of three approached to write a Will. The cheapest is to use a blank sheet of paper, or a blank form kit, and fill in the blanks explaining what you want to happen to your things after you have died. Continue reading
I actually think it’s a good idea to have a living will. I’d encourage everybody to get one. I have one; Michelle has one. And we hope we don’t have to use it for a long time, but I think it’s something that is sensible. – Barack Obama, 2009
One of the most confusing services that we offer at USLegalWills.com should be the simplest. But in the US there are countless terms being used for very similar things, and we will try to decipher these terms in this article on the Living Will. Terminology does change though, so it is possible that this article can become out of date. Please fee free to add corrections or updates in the comments below.
The Living Will
A living will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as other decisions such as pain management or organ donation.
A Living Will is much more than Continue reading
Most people recognize that a Financial Power of Attorney (PoA) is a critical part of a complete estate plan. While a Last Will and Testament describes the distribution of your estate after you have passed away, the financial Power of Attorney allows you to give somebody to power to handle your business affairs if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to take care of your finances yourself. This article discusses the implications of creating a Financial PoA. Keep in mind that we are not dealing with a healthcare PoA in this article which is an entirely different document.
Background to the Financial Power of Attorney
A financial PoA allows you (the grantor, principal or donor) to grant power to another person (the attorney-in-fact or agent) to handle specific or general financial tasks under defined circumstances. This gives rise to the different types of financial PoA; they can be “special” or “limited” if they grant specific powers to the agent, or you can create a “general Power of Attorney” if the powers are not to be restricted.
There are three types of general PoA Continue reading
In the last week alone I have seen a number of people asking the question on the internet “Is it okay to prepare my own Will using an online Will service”. I have been shocked at the amount of misinformation that has been posted in reply.
To be clear, I am defending an interactive online Will service like the one at USLegalWills.com, I am not suggesting that you should prepare your Will using a blank form DIY Will kit that you could buy in Staples. The blank form kits are a disaster, but the online Will services are an excellent mid-ground for somebody who doesn’t want the inconvenience and cost of a lawyer, but still needs to have their Will in place.
These are some of the most egregious, incorrect warnings that I have seen in the last week.
1. You must use a lawyer
Written by a lawyer in response to a question on Quora.
We are seeing an increasing number of articles about “online Wills” but the definition seems to be vague. Let us explore what exactly is meant by an “online Will”.
What is a Last Will and Testament
There are clear laws as to what constitutes a legal Last Will and Testament and these laws are quite consistent across all jurisdictions. To be a legal Will, the document must be written or typed on a piece of paper, and usually it must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses who have nothing to gain from the contents of the Will. We say “usually” because in some jurisdictions they accept a “holographic Will” which is entirely written in your own handwriting, and does not require the two witnesses.
There is one other exception; Continue reading
I heard that if I write my own Will out in my own handwriting, I do not need to have it witnessed, is this true?
If a Will is written entirely in your own handwriting, some States do not require that Will to be witnessed. This is known as a holographic Will or holograph Will.
The trouble is, States vary significantly in their acceptance of a holographic Will. Continue reading
You probably know that your Last Will and Testament is a description of how your estate will be distributed after you have passed away. It gives you an opportunity to recognize the people and organizations that have had an impact on your life and insures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. But beyond the distribution of your assets, this article will highlight four key appointments that are made in your Will.
Your Executor (or Personal Representative)
This person has the responsibility to carry out the instructions in the Will and without a Will the Executor will be appointed by the courts. It’s a difficult appointment to make because you need to find somebody with the organizational skills to collect your assets, file your taxes and provide reports to the beneficiaries.
The Executor has to of course be trustworthy, Continue reading
Since 2001 USLegalWills.com has offered a service that allows you to prepare your own Last Will and Testament. No lawyer is required, you simply step through the service, print the document and sign it in the presence of two witnesses. For three years we have covered the issues associated with writing a Will in our blog at legalwills.wordpress.com. We have now decided to move this blog and embed it as part of our newly designed website. There are well over 100 articles on our old blog, and we hope that over time we will surpass this on our new blog.
Welcome to our new blog.
Most recently, we have written the definitive guide to preparing your Will.
We have also offered some advice on blended family situations.
A survey on the number of Americans without a Will.
Five reasons not to procrastinate on making a Will.
Joint Wills and Mutual Wills explained.
And Digital assets.
If you have any questions on writing your Will, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We will be very happy to help you.