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Updating Will
Old 06-22-2021, 03:55 AM   #1
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Updating Will

Morning All -
We are in the process of updating our wills. Basically we are pretty simple couple - 401ks, traditional and Roth IRAs, own home, no debt (maybe a car loan in the future).
To save money looking to use Legalzoom.com. From what I can see for basic wills it is ok.
One question I have is the use of a Spousal Testamentary Trust. The purpose we would like to use it for is to protect our hard earned assets to ensure they go to our children in case down the road one of us becomes a widow/widower and should remarry (with potential of assets inherited by the new spouse and their family). It seems straight forward, agree to establish a trust upon death, identify who are the beneficiaries of the trust after the living spouse dies.

Appreciate your feedback on using legalzoom.com and also use of the spousal testamentary trust.
Thanks
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Old 06-22-2021, 05:16 AM   #2
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I used Legalzoom years ago for our wills. I wasn’t a lawyer but they appeared to use “boilerplate” standard forms. After creating our wills I asked a friend who is a lawyer to review them. He said they looked fine. I have since used the prepaid legal services through my MegaCorp to write a whole new will package for DW and I…
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Old 06-22-2021, 07:53 AM   #3
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Many also use Nolo's Willmaker Plus for simple wills.

Whether or not you execute the will, the tutorial included is fantastic reading on the subject of wills and basic trusts.

Nolo also has a package on Special Needs Trusts for us that have a young grandchild to provide for.
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Old 06-22-2021, 08:18 AM   #4
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For trusts, I think it’s always a good idea to consult with an estate attorney. You can’t foresee what a boilerplate trust is missing until it’s too late.
Every state has their own unique laws that local estate attorneys will be aware of.
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Old 06-22-2021, 08:31 AM   #5
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It is probably fine, assuming the form is tailored to your state. I have used similar forms before.
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Old 06-22-2021, 08:52 AM   #6
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OP - Each of you thinks the other is going to cut out your current children ?

Perhaps the children deserve to be cut out, if they are going to ignore the surviving spouse for decades.

Easiest way to ensure the children get something, is to put them in the Will now. Our Wills are like that, when 1 person dies, each child gets $x , and the rest (bulk) goes to the surviving spouse.

Trusts can be broken in many cases, and sometimes inadvertently restrict access to money when desperately needed.
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Old 06-22-2021, 09:29 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kannon View Post
... To save money looking to use Legalzoom.com. ...
Out of curiosity, what % of your estate would $2000-4000 spent on a good plan be?

Two thoughts:

There are lots of people happy with home-made documents but none of them posting here are dead yet. We will never hear from lawyers, courts, or beneficiaries about any problems that may arise after the happy camper is dead.

Also, trusts are complex even when apparently simple. For example, what happens if you and DW perish in a common disaster? What happens if one or more of your children predecease the surviving spouse? Is the surviving spouse to receive any money from the trust? What are the rules? Can the surviving spouse drain the trust due to undue influence from a new hubby/wife? What if the surviving spouse has health problems that necessitate 24 hour home care? Do the rules allow the trust to pay? IANAL and even I can ask these simple questions. A real trusts & estates specialist will cover these and more. There is a huge benefit to BTDT experience with the legal and the family dynamics of this stuff.
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Old 06-22-2021, 09:35 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by OldShooter View Post
Out of curiosity, what % of your estate would $2000-4000 spent on a good plan be?

Two thoughts:

There are lots of people happy with home-made documents but none of them posting here are dead yet. We will never hear from lawyers, courts, or beneficiaries about any problems that may arise after the happy camper is dead.

Also, trusts are complex even when apparently simple. For example, what happens if you and DW perish in a common disaster? What happens if one or more of your children predecease the surviving spouse? Is the surviving spouse to receive any money from the trust? What are the rules? Can the surviving spouse drain the trust due to undue influence from a new hubby/wife? What if the surviving spouse has health problems that necessitate 24 hour home care? Do the rules allow the trust to pay? IANAL and even I can ask these simple questions. A real trusts & estates specialist will cover these and more. There is a huge benefit to BTDT experience with the legal and the family dynamics of this stuff.
And your heirs have legal recourse if the attorney/firm screws up. If Legal Zoom screws up? You are SOL as they aren't a "law firm" and don't "provide legal services."
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Old 06-22-2021, 09:48 AM   #9
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Interesting. OP starts by saying “we are a pretty simple couple” and then goes on to talk about setting up a Spousal Testamentary Trust - something I’d never heard of. So the Trust is to manage the estate in the case where the spouse remarries after the death of the current spouse. Not so simple. I can imagine a number of issues, but the bottom line is that I would not consider myself to be in a simple situation just to save a few bucks at the risk of messing up the future estate.

When we got our wills, the attorney helped us in a number of ways. We set up all our life documents and we’re comfortable that our needs are met. One value of the attorney is the point of contact when we pass. Call Lisa is all our kids need to do. Another thing that she helped with is making sure all our accounts were set up with the proper beneficiary designations. It’s not as simple as saying that the Trust is the beneficiary to all accounts.

I got the Nolo program and it was a little helpful in getting our thoughts together, but it was not even close to the service the attorney provided.
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Old 06-22-2021, 09:59 AM   #10
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... One value of the attorney is the point of contact when we pass. Call Lisa is all our kids need to do. ...
Yes, forgot to mention that. For us it's "call Barbara." She is executor, significantly younger than us, and if she is unavailable for some reason her firm will take over.
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Old 06-22-2021, 10:18 AM   #11
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Both our wills are prepared by a lawyer. We update them every 5-7 years.

Spending the time, effort, and money upfront to get it done right and in accordance to your wishes can save a great deal of angst, time, and money for those who are left behind.

It is not about the fee for us, it is about the value to us. We have no problem paying a professional for his or her time.
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Old 06-22-2021, 10:20 AM   #12
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I recently re wrote my trust and tried LegalZoom. I realized pretty quickly it was very boilerplate and requested my money back. I had also signed up for a deed transfer; they charged me $350 for something I subsequently accomplished for $125.

I would shop around for a qualified Trust attorney you can see in person. I found that fees vary greatly, and unless your trust is complex you dont need an expensive attorney.
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Old 06-22-2021, 11:30 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldShooter View Post
.....
There are lots of people happy with home-made documents but none of them posting here are dead yet. We will never hear from lawyers, courts, or beneficiaries about any problems that may arise after the happy camper is dead.

....
Same with dead people that had lawyers prepare a Will many years ago.
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Old 06-22-2021, 11:58 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by oldshooter View Post
out of curiosity, what % of your estate would $2000-4000 spent on a good plan be?

Two thoughts:

There are lots of people happy with home-made documents but none of them posting here are dead yet. We will never hear from lawyers, courts, or beneficiaries about any problems that may arise after the happy camper is dead.

Also, trusts are complex even when apparently simple. For example, what happens if you and dw perish in a common disaster? What happens if one or more of your children predecease the surviving spouse? Is the surviving spouse to receive any money from the trust? What are the rules? Can the surviving spouse drain the trust due to undue influence from a new hubby/wife? What if the surviving spouse has health problems that necessitate 24 hour home care? Do the rules allow the trust to pay? Ianal and even i can ask these simple questions. A real trusts & estates specialist will cover these and more. There is a huge benefit to btdt experience with the legal and the family dynamics of this stuff.

^ ^ ^
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Old 06-22-2021, 12:13 PM   #15
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OP - Each of you thinks the other is going to cut out your current children ?

Perhaps the children deserve to be cut out, if they are going to ignore the surviving spouse for decades...
The concern is that the surviving spouse remarries and then dies. The step-parent inherits and then cuts out the children from their spouse's first marriage. The spousal testamentary trust provides income to the surviving spouse during their lifetime, but when they die it goes to the trust beneficiaries (the children) instead of their step-parent.
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Old 06-22-2021, 12:35 PM   #16
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Please, please, please, if you decide to go with an attorney to write the will, get several references before you choose one. DMIL had a semi-complicated will and trust set up by a local attorney. When I read the codicils and amendments which he also set up, the names they were referring to were incorrect making them not valid. This was done about 15 years prior to me reading the trust papers. When he was challenged on his mistake, he wanted to charge DMIL for the correction! Only when we challenged the bill did he remove the charges. Not all attorneys are as incompetent as this one is, but how do you know?

DW and I used Nolo/Quicken Willmaker for our wills and other estate planning documents about 2 years ago and found it to be very easy and straight forward. Our primary and secondary beneficiaries were rather complicated but easily implemented in Willmaker. Yes, we did think about all the possible scenarios with who dies first, setup for grandchidren and daughter inlaws etc. and accounted for them in our Willmaker wills. Trust me, they can be handled with Willmaker.

One consideration is, you could purchase Willmaker for ~$100 and after going thru the program, if you still want to go to a live attorney, you can do so. IMO Willmaker is well worth the investment even if it is only used to go thru the learning process at your own leisure. It gives you time to think about the various decisions that need to be made before going to an attorney to write the final papers.
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Old 06-22-2021, 01:00 PM   #17
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Same with dead people that had lawyers prepare a Will many years ago.
Yes in spades. Our plan seems to get revised every few years as laws, family situation, grandkids growing up, charities plan, all are somewhat moving targets.

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Please, please, please, if you decide to go with an attorney to write the will, get several references before you choose one. ...
Yes, again. This is actually quite difficult. Consult your regular attorney, any other attorneys you know, your CPA, other CPAs, etc. Best if you know a judge who can check with their buddies.

DW retired as an SVP with Megabank Investments & Trusts division and knew of a couple of attorneys who claimed trust & estate expertise but always produced documents with problems. Her staff guys just groaned when this attorney's name came up.

Our city magazine publishes an annual list of "Superlawyers" based on recommendations from legal professionals. That kind of thing might be helpful. "Lawyer ratings" web sites by ordinary customers are worthless. Even if the reviews are not fakes, they are mostly just evaluations of whether the lawyer is a nice guy and good BS-er or rants where you can't ever know the other side of the story..
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Old 06-22-2021, 01:23 PM   #18
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Our city magazine publishes an annual list of "Superlawyers" based on recommendations from legal professionals. That kind of thing might be helpful. "Lawyer ratings" web sites by ordinary customers are worthless. Even if the reviews are not fakes, they are mostly just evaluations of whether the lawyer is a nice guy and good BS-er or rants where you can't ever know the other side of the story..
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do NOT rely on "Superlawyers"....it's nothing but a marketing scheme to bilk money from lawyers. I don't practice law and was "nominated" less than a year after I was licensed. And the published list you speak of? The "winners" pay to have that placed.
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Old 06-22-2021, 01:33 PM   #19
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NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do NOT rely on "Superlawyers"....it's nothing but a marketing scheme to bilk money from lawyers. I don't practice law and was "nominated" less than a year after I was licensed. And the published list you speak of? The "winners" pay to have that placed.
OK, good caution. In our market, the lawyers do not pay for listings. I have known and worked with several and they were indeed the cream of the crop. I can't speak for other markets.
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Old 06-22-2021, 01:53 PM   #20
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OK, good caution. In our market, the lawyers do not pay for listings. I have known and worked with several and they were indeed the cream of the crop. I can't speak for other markets.
True, the basic listing is at no cost, but most of the published names are paid. The "Superlawyers" is fully owned by Thomas Reuters. As an example...you can purchase an EXCLUSIVE plaque to hang in your office. It's only $300. I know a lot of FANTASTIC lawyers and would use them in a heart beat. I don't think any of them are a "Superlawyer."
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