Making a last will and testament is one of the most important things we can do for our descendants. It’s also the one we think the littlest about.
Deciding in advance what you want done with all of your money, things, and assets is a big deal. It saves your children months of extra frustration and heartache – and might well prevent serious family fights down the line. It needs to be done right. The problem, of course, is that it’s not a simple thing to do.
Making a will isn’t just a matter of writing out who gets what – it’s a matter of deciding how each person gets what, and who gives each person what they get. Its execution varies from state to state. If you have a lot of money, property, stock, or anything else valuable - it’s just not the kind of thing you should do on your own.
Sometimes, though, you’ll have to. Luckily for you, there are plenty of options available.
Foolproof Ways on How to Make a Will
We’ll list this from most to least expensive. While the first on our list is also the most expensive, lawyers are worth it:
1. Get a Lawyer
To paraphrase Warren Buffet, ‘it’s better to buy a great product at a fair price than a fair product at a great price.’ Or, to put another way, “You get what you pay for.”
Therefore, get a lawyer.
Make sure you have one that specializes in making wills, preferably from a firm that handles everything associated with estate planning, health care proxies, or anything else you’ll need in your golden years.
There’s a lot that goes into these documents, and they all tend to overlap and reinforce each other. You’ll need an expert.
You should know up front that it’s going to cost you the most. Fees for drafting a will run anywhere from $200 on the low end, to over $1,000 on the high end. This is, too, assuming you don’t have any complicated assets – big, complex stock portfolios, multiple homes across the country or world, etc. Those assets will require bigger guns.
Still, even if you don’t have much, a lawyer is the safest way to go.
A lawyer will not only make sure everything is done right – and right according to state, as well as federal, laws – but will make sure you don’t fall prey to expensive mistakes. This is important. Most of the time, the expensive mistakes are actually the easiest ones to avoid.
Consider, for example, the following true story.
Warren Burger was the 15th U.S. Supreme Court Justice from the ‘70s through most of the ‘80s.
No one knew the law of the land better – he was, after all, the head of a group of people whose word on the law was final. They’re supposed to be the men and women who know best. Naturally, you’d think he would know how to do something as minor as drawing up a will.
He couldn’t. In fact, his will was less than 500 words. It was ambiguous, and full of mistakes. And it cost his heirs nearly half a million dollars to work everything out.
(Mind you, that’s half a million in the ‘90s – it would be far more today.)
There are two lessons here. One, little mistakes can end up costing you a lot. Therefore, get a lawyer that specializes in wills.
And two? It’s not enough to have a good understanding of the law – you need a lawyer that does wills all the time.
Therefore, again, get one that specializes in wills.
A step below an actual lawyer, but above the myriad online options available, is legal software. And there’s only one that’s at the top of the list: Quicken.
Everything software produces will be more detailed than documents downloaded from the internet. It’s easy to use, comes with a simple manual to guide you through what’s going on legally, and fast (faster than an attorney, anyway).
Willmaker Plus is sold by Nolo, a one-stop-shop for legal documents, books, and software that itself creates legal documents. The books are mostly do-it-yourself, as is the software, and it’s anything you can imagine – bankruptcy, business partnerships, you name it.
Anything bought here will hold up for any simple estate.
Willmaker Plus is a little more expensive than your online options – just over $80 for the whole package – but is worth it. You might end up paying more for a subscription with one of the online services.
Unless you’re someone that enjoys planning ahead, you’ll start thinking about a last will and testament like most of us do – in a time of crisis, when the need is immediate.
If you can’t afford a lawyer and want the peace of mind that comes from having documents now, you’re in luck – the internet has a ton of options available.
We’ll start with one you’ve certainly heard of.
LegalZoom is the most well-known option for drafting a last will and testament. As far as do-it-yourself options go, it’s easily at the top of the list – pick a price, answer a series of questions, sign your name, and print. It’s an easy, relatively painless process.
LegalZoom is A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau, so don’t think you’re getting a bad deal. Prices vary from $70 to $150, and the site offers customer support if you get stuck.
This is not the same as offering legal advice, mind you – customer support is just there to help you answer everything correctly. But it’s a big step above downloading a blank form, and blindly doing your best.
If you need something drawn up quickly, and don’t have complicated assets or much money, this is the way to go.
Rocket Lawyer is the main online competitor to LegalZoom. It’s structured a bit differently – you’ll be paying a monthly membership, rather than a flat fee for one document.
That doesn’t sound ideal if you’re just looking to draw up a simple document and be done with it. However, there’s one major upside – Rocket Lawyer’s customer service connects to real lawyers. Customers love it. If you think you’ll need a lot of help, this is a great option for you.
Rocket Lawyer’s pricing is either $40 or $50 a month, depending on the package you choose. Like LegalZoom, it has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
If you’re looking for more than just a last will and testament, this, next to an actual lawyer, might be your best option.
5. Law Depot
This website, like its cousins, offers legal documents for either a flat fee or a monthly subscription. It, too, is A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau. The company offers a large array of legal documents on its website, from estate planning forms to loan agreements.
What’s different about this option? Law Depot is cheaper, whether you buy a document outright or purchase a subscription. Buying the will itself will cost anywhere from $10 to $40, considerably cheaper than LegalZoom.
A yearly subscription is $8 a month, much lower than Rocket Lawyer. Remember, too, that the subscription gives you access to every form on the site, so you can do far more than just draft your last will and testament.
This website offers the cheapest documents out of any of the online law services. Nothing on the site exceeds $40, and the subscription plans are less than $8 a month. As a bonus, a few things are simply free.
This site, like its more popular cousins, is another website that sells legal documents.
It’s got one advantage over the competition, however – its accounting for state law is a step above most others. The documents you download are specific to your state. As we mentioned, that’s going to be a big deal for your last will and testament.
Eforms.com charges either $15 a month or a flat fee of $45 for a single document.
Like the others above, this website is a giant collection of legal documents, available for a flat or recurring fee. Its subscription is cheap, provided you pay a year at a time – $90 isn’t bad.
If you take the free trial, however, you’ll end up paying over $30 a month. Make sure you know what you’re paying for.
This website is, unlike everything else mentioned so far, is free.
It’s easy to use, and you can have your documents ready after about an hour of answering questions and filling in blanks.
This is, of course, not the option to use if you have a complicated estate, but if you need something immediately, and have no money, it’s not a bad option.
And our last option? A combination, of course.
10. An Online Document and a Lawyer
Chances are, if you’re shopping online for will templates, you need one in a hurry.
Maybe you’re about to take a trip, and you’re worried something will go wrong. Maybe a recent family illness stressed to you the need to get documents ready as soon as possible.
Whatever the reason, there’s a good chance you’ll have a bit of time to improve your online will after drafting it. That’s when you can do the one thing that will make any of the above options as good as our first, and best, option – take your documents to a lawyer.
Granted, it will cost you. But most of the necessary information will already be in hand. You’ll leave knowing you have all the proper documents ready for anything that might happen to you.
Take Advantage of These Accessible Options on Making a Will
Gone are the days when making a will seemed so complicated and time-consuming. We now live in the digital age where different traditional industries are being disrupted by technology.
Once you make your will through any of these options, the peace of mind that comes from this kind of preparation is priceless. It’s worth your time, and your money.