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Do-It-Yourself Wills and Trusts

Posted By Jim On 11/12/2007 @ 8:21 am In Retirement | 7 Comments

I don’t have a will and I’ve done zero estate planning. That being said, it’s a situation I plan to remedy so this recent NY Times article about do-it-yourself wills and trusts was pretty timely. The one important thing I learned about wills and trusts were that they are considered private documents, which means they are valid in all fifty states even if you don’t hire a lawyer to draft them. From my interpretation, it sounds like it’s not an agreement but more a unilateral statement so it’s not necessary to have a lawyer draft it up (especially with how expensive they are).

NY Times identified several services and software packages:

  • Quicken WillMaker Plus [3] – $37.99 (after a $10 rebate, valid until 5/31/08), despite the Quicken name it’s produced by Nolo, which makes great legalese-translated-into-english books, and it bills itself as “So comprehensive, the software assembles your forms from among 40,000 document possibilities–but so easy to use, you’ll have them finished in minutes.” If you want a copy, I recommend checking out eBay as there were several cheap copies available there.
  • LegalZoom – ~$70, you fill out an online form, they review it and turn it into a will. For $219, you can get a living will.
  • We the People – This is a storefront franchise that helps people fill out forms, $99 for a will, $399-$499 for a living trust.
  • Suze Orman’s Will and Trust Kit [4] – $13.57 gets you an “easy-to-use and fast way for you and other members of your household to create your own will, living revocable trust, and all the other must-have documents you need to protect you and your family.”

The article quotes will preparation services by a lawyer at approximately $800 – $1,000 a pop, making the $38 for Quicken WillMaker Plus, $70 at LegalZoom, or $14 for Suze Orman’s Kit seem like peanuts in comparison!

Some gotchas to be aware of… Follow the instructions carefully because even though you don’t need a lawyer, the witnessing and notarizing part is critical. Wills often require two witnesses but no notary, trusts and some medical directives and power of attorney require witnessing and notarization (state dependant). Good thing each of those packages will give you clear instructions based on state.

Source: NY Times [5]

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[3] Quicken WillMaker Plus: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/r/amazon.php?asin=1413308171

[4] Suze Orman’s Will and Trust Kit: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/r/amazon.php?asin=1401918999

[5] NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/business/yourmoney/14wills.html?_r=2&ex=1350014400&en=9808a4a1a25cf3d6&ei=5088&oref=slogin

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