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Do-It-Yourself Wills and Trusts

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:

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]