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Old 01-04-2018, 06:23 PM   #81
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Originally Posted by Jerry1 View Post
I don't know much about attorney's, but
I know they are pricey, just like the docs. I also know not having a will can and usually is pricey, whether in terms of real $ or embattled family.

Case in point, Prince vs Robin Williams.
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Old 01-04-2018, 06:43 PM   #82
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
I've heard of numbers like $1200 annual plus 1% of assets under management annually. That could add up if there are minors and age limits of when payouts are made, but otherwise, not so bad, IMO. Probably need to talk specifics with a local bank with a trust department.
Wow! Thankfully, I found out that my state, and many others, allow a TOD (transfer on death) deed for small residential real estate. Presumably simple paperwork, that needs 2 witnesses & notary, then recording. No ongoing costs.

I'm tempted to rely on TOD/POD for almost everything in order to try to avoid probate. Seems like living trust is too $$$ for my simple needs, esp. since almost everything except the house is already on TOD type accounts.

Possibly silly question: do I need a will if pretty much everything is TOD? Still thinking about a will as central document, but then is presumably must match all the TOD's, otherwise the will would be trumped by the TOD designations.
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Old 01-04-2018, 07:06 PM   #83
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I'm tempted to rely on TOD/POD for almost everything in order to try to avoid probate. Seems like living trust is too $$$ for my simple needs, esp. since almost everything except the house is already on TOD type accounts.

Possibly silly question: do I need a will if pretty much everything is TOD? Still thinking about a will as central document, but then is presumably must match all the TOD's, otherwise the will would be trumped by the TOD designations.
I had a living trust with my late wife, as at that time the estate tax started at $1M. Unfortunately, when the tax was upped, I was too lazy to get the trust changed from an AB trust to a regular. As a result, half the property/ funds went into a QTIP trust, which is irrevocable when my wife died.
However, there was a cluse that if the trust assets fell below a certain amount, the trust could be terminated.
When that happened, I terminated the trust and transferred the funds to my account.
When I recently had an estate package prepared with POA's, etc. They included a pour over will as part of the package. You may have your funds, etc. as TOD, but there may be material things of value, such as collectibles ior other items of value.
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Old 01-04-2018, 08:09 PM   #84
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Possibly silly question: do I need a will if pretty much everything is TOD?
Do you want the state to decide who is in charge of making sure that the TODs occur properly? What about your residual estate? Identifying an executor and providing her with everything she needs to handle your estate is a good idea.

I just purchased the Nolo WillMaker software for Mac for $42. It generates many important estate documents - not just a Will. I haven't used the app yet, but I'm sure it will do the job - it's been around a long time. My longer-term project is to create a revocable trust for probate avoidance.
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Old 01-04-2018, 08:23 PM   #85
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I'm not an attorney, maybe they know the whys of POD / TOD, I just know how it worked 2
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Do you want the state to decide who is in charge of making sure that the TODs occur properly? What about your residual estate? Identifying an executor and providing her with everything she needs to handle your estate is a good idea.
I've been through this and if there is a POD / TOD on accounts the state is not involved with those assets. A certified death certificate is given to the entity (investment company, bank, insurance company) and they transfer it to the beneficiaries. Took about 10 minutes with Fidelity & Schwab, 1/2 hr with USAA, a little less with Bank of Sonoma. Took a few hours in DMV but that car transfer was under small estate affidavit and the delay was due to lines & finding a form to get notarized online. You just need to make sure that you have enough certified original death certs (I needed 10) as each place wanted to keep an original. Property over 150K is more complex
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I just purchased the Nolo WillMaker software for Mac for $42. It generates many important estate documents - not just a Will. I haven't used the app yet, but I'm sure it will do the job - it's been around a long time. My longer-term project is to create a revocable trust for probate avoidance.
Does Nolo Press have state specific guidelines?
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Old 01-04-2018, 08:51 PM   #86
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Does [WillMaker] have state specific guidelines?
If not, I just wasted my money. I didn't even bother checking this because the product would be (almost) useless without it.
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Old 01-04-2018, 09:42 PM   #87
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If not, I just wasted my money. I didn't even bother checking this because the product would be (almost) useless without it.
You have to select your state when using Willmaker, so I assume it's state specific.
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Old 01-04-2018, 09:44 PM   #88
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....Does [Willmaker] have state specific guidelines?
I believe so too. from their website on the benefits of Willmaker:

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A team of lawyer-editors working to ensure each document reflects the laws of your state*.

*Estate planning documents not valid in Louisiana, U.S. Territories or Canada.
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Old 01-04-2018, 10:46 PM   #89
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Originally Posted by Jerry1 View Post
I'm struck by this conversation given that I believe a number of us rely on off the shelf tax software every year. Why don't we go to a CPA or Tax Attorney? Because we think we understand the law well enough to know whether or not we need to do that. Of course, there are some tax situations that are very complex and need professionals to handle, but for the vast majority of us, we do alright even with somewhat complex tax issues. I'm not sure why it would be any difference with a will?
Two reasons.

First - the consequences of being wrong are entirely different. If I screw up in using my tax software maybe I get a letter from the IRS and they say I owe money and I have to pay some interest and penalty. Or maybe I miss a deduction and spend a little extra money. On the other hand, if I make a mistake with my will then it may be that my estate passes to someone that I didn't intend or want to inherit. That is a big deal. I am not going to personally take that chance when hiring someone to prepare a will is just not that expensive. I mean I could sort of understand it if someone had no significant estate. But most of the people here do have an estate.

Second - I think people are more likely to know when they need a CPA (or other tax help) but may be over confident on the will because they have no frame of reference. They don't know what they don't know. The average adult of means probably has at least some idea of taxes due to a lot of familiarity of preparing returns for years. Remember tax returns are designed (at least simple ones) to be able to be completed by the individual. Wills are different. People don't write a will every year. There aren't Publications from the State explaining exactly how to fill out each form. It is just different.
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Old 01-17-2018, 09:40 PM   #90
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I just purchased the Nolo WillMaker software for Mac for $42. It generates many important estate documents - not just a will. I haven't used the app yet, but I'm sure it will do the job - it's been around a long time.
I just finished using WillMaker to produce a suite of estate planning documents for review by family members. Here are the documents generated by WillMaker:
Will
Self-Proving Affidavit for Will
Designation of Health Care Surrogate
Living Will
Durable POA for Finances
Final Arrangements
Info For Survivors
Revocable Living Trust (included in purchase, but completed online instead of using the application)

IMO, 25% of the value of WillMaker is in the documents generated, and 75% is educational. Extensive help and instructions are provided for all of the documents prepared. It's not cost-effective for a lawyer to provide all of the background information and hand-holding that WillMaker provides, even if you pay him or her thousands of dollars. I participated in my mother's estate planning, so I'm familiar with what it's like to use a lawyer to generate these documents.

So...if I go ahead and use these documents as my estate planning vehicle, am I exposing myself to the risk that when it comes time to settle my estate my assets go where I don't intend them to? Well, it's not clear why this would happen. The documents are written in plain, simple, English and clearly express my wishes (in contrast to some estate planning documents I've seen, which are filled with incomprehensible boilerplate lawyer-ish gobbledegook).

A caveat: people with lives more complicated than mine (e.g. children from a previous marriage, complex ongoing businesses, etc.) should definitely see a lawyer. Complex scenarios would quickly overwhelm WillMaker's rather modest estate planning capability.

Good luck!
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Old 01-18-2018, 12:39 AM   #91
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IMO, 25% of the value of WillMaker is in the documents generated, and 75% is educational. Extensive help and instructions are provided for all of the documents prepared. It's not cost-effective for a lawyer to provide all of the background information and hand-holding that WillMaker provides, even if you pay him or her thousands of dollars. I participated in my mother's estate planning, so I'm familiar with what it's like to use a lawyer to generate these documents.
Agreed! I started with Nolo WillMaker for self-education, with the intention of finding an attorney to write the actual documents. This triggered many hours of reading the Nolo-provided documentation and software "books" on various topics related to estate planning. I did some further research online to answer specific questions.

I can still see why folks would like a lawyer to do all this, but I wouldn't feel comfortable with a "trust me" from a expert if i didn't know what was going on. If I already had a lawyer, I would use him, but I don't, so I'll I've started doing it myself with Willmaker.

With Willmaker, I'm writing my own power of attorney (financial and health) and will. We're using transfer on death documents (primarily bank or brokerage specific) for securities and real estate (allowed in our state for small residential). Note that Nolo recommends writing a will, despite having the major stuff in TOD's.

WARNING RE TOD'S:

Two of our discount brokerages require submission of paper TOD's (transfer on death) specific to their firm. Despite submitting the paperwork in person, the beneficiaries were sometimes missing from the records when I tried to confirm by checking either my monthly statement or online personal settings. Primary and/or secondary beneficiaries were missing half the time! These are major discount brokerages, often with local offices! On the other hand, brokerages and banks with online beneficiary assignment seemed to retain the info better, at least based on their online records. Not very reassuring overall...

Lessons:
1) Verify primary and secondary beneficiaries (people or your trust) online where possible. Often banks will list this on the first page of your monthly statement, very reassuring.

2) Don't rely only on TOD/POD paperwork. Although most of our assets are TOD/POD, I'm planning to back it up with a written will. Worse comes to worse, my executor will know my intentions and have some paperwork to back it up in case some bank or brokerage loses my TOD/POD after decades. Keep in mind that TOD/POD assignment typically override your will, so insure your intent is consistent.

3) Regarding financial power of attorney, most brokerages require their own paperwork, sometimes, but not always, in conjunction with your existing POA. They all have very different requirements regarding notarization of their forms and whether both you and your agent must sign. It's clearly easier to do this when ahead of time when you are around and healthy, instead of your poor agent and possibly a lawyer if the brokerage is reticent and you are incapacitated.

Boy, do I hate this stuff, but I'm making creeping progress, in large part because of this thread. Thanks All!
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Old 01-18-2018, 08:22 AM   #92
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Quote:
Originally Posted by socca
IMO, 25% of the value of WillMaker is in the documents generated, and 75% is educational. Extensive help and instructions are provided for all of the documents prepared. It's not cost-effective for a lawyer to provide all of the background information and hand-holding that WillMaker provides, even if you pay him or her thousands of dollars. I participated in my mother's estate planning, so I'm familiar with what it's like to use a lawyer to generate these documents.



Agreed! I started with Nolo WillMaker for self-education, with the intention of finding an attorney to write the actual documents. This triggered many hours of reading the Nolo-provided documentation and software "books" on various topics related to estate planning. I did some further research online to answer specific questions.


I can still see why folks would like a lawyer to do all this, but I wouldn't feel comfortable with a "trust me" from a expert if i didn't know what was going on. If I already had a lawyer, I would use him, but I don't, so I'll I've started doing it myself with Willmaker. ....

Boy, do I hate this stuff, but I'm making creeping progress, in large part because of this thread. Thanks All!
Agreed. A BIG THANKS to socca for following up and providing an informative, helpful and insightful post on the issue.

Posts like this (and your helpful warning on TOD and beneficiaries) are so much more helpful than the broad-brushed comments we've seen, like 'You need a pro! You wouldn't perform surgery on yourself, would you?', and so on.

-ERD50
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Old 01-18-2018, 10:06 AM   #93
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Just a reminder... The details of the wording, and the legal points are very important. For sure, we're looking to make sure that what happens after we die, will make our heirs get through the financial process without stress.

Though I think we all assume that once we've covered the recommended bases that we've done our best to make it easy. In fact, even though what we do will get through the courts, there are many things that can cause serious problems for those we love, after the ownership of the estate has been resolved.

In the early years of our retirement, in our over-55 community, I was asked to help dig through the finances of several widows who, though they were able to inherit their husbands estate, were "lost" when it came to settling their lives. Though they had good marriages, they were not knowledgeable about some of the finances that their husbands had been taking care of. Likewise even the children were unaware of many of the assets of the estate. After many, many hours of digging through papers,we were able to find some old insurance policies, deeds to property, and the real value of some assets that were valuable but of unknown value... ie. antiques, deeds, jewelry, titles, and collectibles such as original Hummels.

Posting, just to emphasize that the three or four pages of the will may be only the beginning for the heir(s), and that putting together the rest of the information could be just as important. Imagine what your heir would be facing if you and your partner were to be gone tomorrow.

Since our kids were in on our will creation, we were able to share most of the information about "value" and to consolidate the different parts so as to make the disposition of property easier. Consolidating the information for easy access was a priority. (some of this is defined in my earlier post #8). Just a few things:
four land and house deeds
11 titles... for cars, boats, cycles
copies of taxes for three years
lists of automatic payments
instructions for resolving health, insurance and other policies
location and value of collections and non monetary items
lists and addresses for income producing monies due
other time sensitive non-covered expenses and income
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Old 02-14-2018, 03:39 PM   #94
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Here is what I have spent on my 2018 DIY estate planning exercise so far:
$42 - Nolo WillMaker software for Mac (list price: $70)
$60 - to have the various documents produced by WillMaker notarized
$60 - for a Mac software utility to convert PDFs to Word documents. I needed this because Nolo's online living trust software insists on using a living trust name with the format [first name] [middle name] [last name] Revocable Living Trust. In my case, this creates a huge name for the living trust, which is awkward for various legal documents. So, I converted several of the documents generated by WillMaker to Word and substantially shortened the name of the trust everywhere it appeared. This worked fine, but indicates why the DIY approach isn't for everyone.
$120 - to a lawyer to draft and record a deed transferring my house into my revocable trust. Theoretically, I could have done this myself, but IMO it was money well spent to have someone familiar with local standard practices to do the job.

BTW: even if you are planning to DIY, it might be worth hiring an estate planning lawyer for a modest fee to review your strategy before you begin. The lawyer who drafted my deed noticed that my probate avoidance strategy was a bit flawed as we were informally chatting.

FWIW: when various members of my family have used a lawyer for their estate planning, here is what they were charged (YMMV):
will & revocable trust by a general practice lawyer: $1,500
will & revocable trust by a lawyer specializing in estate planning: $2,500
other types of trust (e.g., irrevocable) by a lawyer specializing in estate planning: $4,000 and up

So, I've probably saved around $2,000 with the DIY approach. However, I've spent much more time than someone who hires a lawyer. On the positive side, I know what all of the documents are for, which wasn't the case when a lawyer prepared estate planning documents for my mother and just had her sign on the bottom line without explaining anything.

Summary: estate planning is not fun. I hope to get this off my plate soon.
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:30 PM   #95
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BTW: it's amusing that WillMaker can generate documents for any state except Louisiana. What's up with Louisiana, anyway? Do the documents need to be in French? 😎
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Old 02-14-2018, 05:23 PM   #96
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BTW: it's amusing that WillMaker can generate documents for any state except Louisiana. What's up with Louisiana, anyway? Do the documents need to be in French? 😎
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