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Old 11-20-2008, 05:31 PM   #21
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Oh yes. Know what your assets are and their value. Bring a list to the meeting with the lawyer. (Don't worry about the household goods, think of it as preparing a financial statement). Know your beneficiary designations. Bring a copy of the deed to your home and any other real estate. Copies of brokerage statements won't hurt. Have a list of the names and addresses of the beneficiaries and if individuals, their social secuity numbers. Being prepared will save those nickle and dime costs of the attorney's office chasing things down.

I recommend non-GPs, but lawyers who do estate planning for a living. It may seem like they are more expensive on an hourly basis, but they are often the most efficient and really good at what they do.

The next thing is when you get a draft, look at it right away and ask your questions. Don't stick it in a drawer and two years later think about signing it. Not only would you be without a will, everyone will have to remember what was done.

I also know people who get worried because the will is "too long." Who cares? It might be long because of complications in your life. The lawyer doesn't charge by the page.

There will be words in the will you don't understand, unfortunately a lot of the old language persists because it has a specific meaning. The lawyer isn't trying to be confusing. So you will read words like "per stirpes."
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Old 11-20-2008, 05:37 PM   #22
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...Estate planning attorneys also have the training to figure out the best way to minimize taxes while still effecting your intentions and they can give you ideas you never thought about so you may change your intentions as part of the process. I know that we did.

Some parts of the docs prepared are boilerplate or a choice among options. Other parts may be designed for you. But what you need and how to get there is the value added by the estate planner.

That said, if you have minimal assets, don't have prior families, illegitimate children, unusual assets, etc.,etc., etc., and plan to leave your stuff to your spouse, and if your spouse is dead to your kids, then a respected kit may be fine. Keep in mind issues with assets that don't pass through a will, such as joint assets and assets with beneficiary designations. There may be consequences with these assets. Joint account with a child? Can a creditor of your child get the account? Do you know? What about putting your house in a life estate with your kids? What happens if the kids get divorced? Or have financial problems? Do you know?

I also am a lawyer and did not do my own will. There were complications. Taxable estate. No children. Trust for disabled family members, and a few other issues.

Mistakes are costly. And don't forget, the rules change and your situation changes so you need to revisit your estate plan regularly.
i just got done executing a revocable trust package for myself this past spring. i did the ol' download the canned trust form, READ IT, did the basic editing, and then went to an estate attorney.
his fixed fee (yes, we did an upfront contract in writing) was much less because of my prep. i received the whole enchilada - trust, pour over will, transfer of house into trust, living will, HCP, disposition of remains, written funeral arrangments, comprehensive estate tax consultation, beneficiary designation review and mods, alternate trustee and trust protector if i am incapacitated, specific instructions for what to do for my long term living arrangements, etc etc.
i remained hands on from soup to nuts. poor guy!
I am childless, widowed, with reasonable assets, and a few crooked siblings and no living parents.
there were some sticky issues in the taxable estate domain that i would have never figured out on my own.
there were paragraphs in the boilerplate that needed to go away.
it is YOUR will, and your decision. just keep an open mind. cost should be the least important factor for this one, full legal soundness the highest factor.
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Old 11-20-2008, 05:46 PM   #23
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I recently heard a lawyer say "I can't afford me".
I'm a physician and I can't afford her either.
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Old 11-20-2008, 06:43 PM   #24
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If you want to save money on having a will prepared I recommend that you do the following:

1) See a respected lawyer who specializes in estate planning. As Martha alluded to, a specialist may charge a little more per hour, but will more than make up for this with efficiency and greater knowledge. I can't emphasize enough the importance of seeing an attorney who has substantial experience in preparing wills. Although I am a licensed attorney (and would like to believe I am quite competent at what I do), I haven't touched a will for over 20 years -- believe me, you wouldn't want me to prepare your will.

2) Before you go to his or her office, make sure you are well-prepared. This means you should already have a well-conceived plan with respect to how you wish your estate to be distributed, and you should bring with you all of the information (full names, social security numbers, details re accounts, etc.) your attorney will need to prepare your will. It is better to err on the side of bringing with you too much information. Have the information well organized so that you can retrieve what your attorney asks for quickly -- remember, time is money.

3) If you prepare your own will using boilerplate forms, take the completed forms to a respected estate planning specialist and ask for his or her professional opinion whether the will you have drafted will adequately serve its intended purpose.

Bottom Line: I'm all in favor of being frugal (I'm about as tight as they come), but when it comes to a will, I don't believe this is the time to look for the "el cheapo" solution.
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Old 11-20-2008, 07:01 PM   #25
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So is no will better than a cheapo will?

(BTW we have an attorney-prepared will for our simple situation--DH gets mine, I get his, grownup kids get ours, daughter gets to pull the plug)
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Old 11-20-2008, 07:06 PM   #26
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So is no will better than a cheapo will?

(BTW we have an attorney-prepared will for our simple situation--DH gets mine, I get his, grownup kids get ours, daughter gets to pull the plug)

My favorite lawyer answer: it depends.

What is the law in your state for how assets pass when you die with no will? How many assets are held joint? Did the cheapo will do what should be done? Was it properly executed?
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Old 11-20-2008, 07:13 PM   #27
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My favorite Executor and Alternate Executor answer :
Your beneficiaries shall reap only what you sowed.

If you used good seed, the crops will be fine.
If you used cheap or outdated seed, there will be missing spots in the garden row.
Remember - a will is a one time planting deal if it is needed today, or tomorrow, or even next week.
Grim? maybe
Realistic? definitely
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Old 11-20-2008, 08:30 PM   #28
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If you have IRAs and such that might be part of your estate, especially if your estate might flirt with the death tax, I would recommend reading some of Ed Slott's books on protecting your money from the IRS. After I read it we were talking with our estate planning lawyer. I mentioned a few things I had read, and he wasn't aware of them. He checked into it and told me later I was right. I'm thinking of finding a different lawyer, but maybe I'll just buy him a copy of the book. But my point is, it's always better to have some knowledge yourself so you can tell if the expert is blowing smoke.
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Old 11-20-2008, 10:49 PM   #29
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I reallly appreciate all of this good information! I'll be printing it out for a couple of reviews. It doesn't look like the DIY route is the way to go, but maybe using some of the prepared forms would be a help in preparing for a visit to a lawyer.
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Old 11-21-2008, 04:48 AM   #30
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Anyone have any experience with "Legal Zoom dot Com"? LegalZoom: Online Legal Document Services: LLC,Divorce,Wills,Incorporation & More.

I think they charge $69 for a "simple" will (wonder how many of those "simple wills" exist).
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Old 11-21-2008, 04:59 AM   #31
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Nope.

IMO - Use a competent attorney. Those cost of having wills, power of attorney, etc setup is minimal (in the scheme of things). The risk of making a mistake is too great (if you own anything). Plus an attorney will be on the look out for changes in the law that might affect you, your estate and your heirs.


Pay the toll!
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Old 11-21-2008, 03:47 PM   #32
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Indeed, I think a greater disaster would be to die without a will, leaving the disposition of your estate solely to the discretion of the courts.
Or maybe worse than that...to the discretion of the family, if there's basically nothing but personal affects.

My aunt passed away about 2 years ago, without a will. She add very little cash saved or tucked away....basically just enough (almost) to pay for her funeral costs. Her only other assets consisted of personal belongings (knic-knacs, some old furniture, kitchen stuff like pots & pans & that sort of stuff, some small appliances, and clothing).

After the funeral, all of her relatives went to her apartment to begin the process of sorting through everything, and cleaning out the apartment. It was like a pack of blood-thirsty, ravenous wolves attacking a herd of one-legged defenseless sheep.

My Mom and I stayed just long enough to pick out a couple of pictures of my Mom and aunt together, and a couple of small knic-knacs. The 'feeding frenzy' was just to gruesome to bear, so we left rather quickly. When we went down to our car, my cousins were on the sidewalk fighting over my aunt's stuff...yelling and grabbing stuff from each other (a real pretty sight).....as they stuffed their cars full to overflowing with anything and everything they could get there grubby mitts on.

If there had at least been a simple will, then everyone would have received exactly what she wanted each one to get. As it was, the relatives grabbed up whatever they wanted, regardless of whether my aunt wanted someone else to have it....as she had stated while still alive. Fortunately for Mom and I, we didn't want or need any of her belongings....other than the couple of pictures and a couple of little cheapo knic-knacs that my Mom wanted as keepsakes.

I hope to never see that situation again!!! EVER!!!


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And this wasn't even on the redneck/hillbilly side of my family! These were the supposedly 'civilized' and edjukated relatives!
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Old 11-21-2008, 04:00 PM   #33
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My aunt passed away about 2 years ago, without a will...After the funeral, all of her relatives went to her apartment to begin the process of sorting through everything, and cleaning out the apartment. It was like a pack of blood-thirsty, ravenous wolves attacking a herd of one-legged defenseless sheep.
...my cousins were on the sidewalk fighting over my aunt's stuff...yelling and grabbing stuff from each other (a real pretty sight).....as they stuffed their cars full to overflowing with anything and everything they could get there grubby mitts on...I hope to never see that situation again!!! EVER!!!
OMG...how pathetic. you and Mom were very smart to leave.
after my mom passed, i was put in charge of doing this job at my mom's small apt. i took several old suitcases and divvied up little things equally - christmas ornaments, pictures, small keepsakes, etc. i did the job solo over 2 days, then my brother and my LH did the heavy stuff when LH flew in.
a sister finally drove down 1 day later and, sure enough, had "something to say" about how we did things. i just ignored her and put one suitcase in my car trunk. she and brother commenced to a full scale argument. it was disgusting to hear.
LH and i left and got a bite to eat. sister was gone when we returned TG. we gave the rest of my mom's things to the apt bldg thrift store and goodwill, as she had requested us to do.
my attorney called this "picking over the bones".
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Old 11-21-2008, 04:41 PM   #34
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a sister finally drove down 1 day later and, sure enough, had "something to say" about how we did things. i just ignored her
I have one sibling who will be like that....unless she changes drastically, which I highly doubt! She won't be happy with anything....never has been. Fortunately EVERYTHING is in writing, by an estate attorney, and notarized!

My other sibling will be no problem at all...never has been....just like me!

Each of them can have anything of Mom's personal belongings that they want after she's gone....except the Lazyboy recliner (I'm keeping that!), and a diamond ring that I got for her a few years ago because she really liked it, and would never have spent that much money on herself.

Two of us kids will be sad that our Mom passed away.....The other will only be sad because they didn't get enough of her 'stuff'.

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my attorney called this "picking over the bones".
Yep, that's exactly what it was like.
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Old 11-21-2008, 04:57 PM   #35
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Goonie, I hope your mom's will specifies the ring goes to you.
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Old 11-21-2008, 05:10 PM   #36
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I have one sibling who will be like that....unless she changes drastically, which I highly doubt! She won't be happy with anything....never has been. Fortunately EVERYTHING is in writing, by an estate attorney, and notarized!
My other sibling will be no problem at all...never has been....just like me!
Each of them can have anything of Mom's personal belongings that they want after she's gone....except the Lazyboy recliner (I'm keeping that!), and a diamond ring that I got for her a few years ago because she really liked it, and would never have spent that much money on herself.
Two of us kids will be sad that our Mom passed away.....The other will only be sad because they didn't get enough of her 'stuff'.
so, after seeing 2 real life stories told here...and i spared you the ordeal i went thru with LH's family over things he owned while alive...

are there any questions from the audience how important it is to have fully LEGAL (in YOUR state, not generic boilerplates) wills and specific bequests IN WRITING?

as my attorney, who is now a supreme court judge, said...
"pickin' over the bones"
people will and do change in these situations...i've been through it twice now.
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Old 11-21-2008, 05:15 PM   #37
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.........
are there any questions from the audience how important it is to have fully LEGAL (in YOUR state, not generic boilerplates) wills and specific bequests IN WRITING?..........

Just one - how much are the lawyers paying you ?

LMAO
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Old 11-21-2008, 05:22 PM   #38
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There are many lawyers who include as part of the will the option of the person to make a list of personal belongings and who they go to. This list will be part of the will. Unfortunately, many fail to make the list. It is surprising the bad feelings that can arise regarding things of little value. So make the list OR put a mechanism in place for how these things will be divied up.
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Old 11-21-2008, 05:27 PM   #39
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Goonie, I hope your mom's will specifies the ring goes to you.
I'm the only one of the kids that knows she has it....and where she keeps it. Besides....I have the receipt for the ring, with my signature on it! Plus, I'll tuck aside a couple of Mom's nicer pieces of jewelry for the nieces....to be sure they get something other than pushed out of the way by a parent.

My siblings are each 600-900 miles away, and it will take them some time to make their arrangements to get here....and they won't just 'drop in'....heck, they haven't even come to visit Mom since our Dad died 9-10 years ago....they're too busy at the daily grind trying to keep their heads above water....can't afford vacations! It must kinda suck for them to be older than me, and still have to slave away like that!
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Old 11-21-2008, 05:50 PM   #40
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Just one - how much are the lawyers paying you ?

LMAO
make me an offer...
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