Having a will prepared for yourself for the benefit of the loved ones you leave behind can go a long way in simplifying what will obviously be a very difficult time for them. There will already be a million other things that need to be taken care of like helping them know how to divide up what you leave behind, a task that can very troubling and frustrating without your help. This can seem like quite an overwhelming task (and maybe even a little morbid) but to me it is a necessity. I think we all would want to do everything in our power to make this time as stress-free as possible for the loved ones we leave behind. My research has uncovered quite a few ways to put together this will without seeing a lawyer or anything like that. It can basically be a “do-it-yourself” kind of process which can also save you a lot of money.
A Cocktail Napkin?
As I see it, there are three ways that you could go about preparing a will for yourself. The first one would be to just write down your wishes on a piece of paper. Sign it and put it somewhere safe. Believe it or not, a lot of states do recognize this as a legal document. This method costs you absolutely nothing. The only drawbacks to this are that you could leave out some important information, and they can be very hard to authenticate once you are gone. Considering the importance of this document and the purpose of it (to make things easier on your loved ones after you’re gone), I doubt that this is the way any of us would want to go, but it is certainly an option.
For The Full Scale Do-It-Yourselfers
The second option would be to print the legal forms available to you from your particular state and fill them out yourself. The site that I chose for my research was US Legal Forms, which provides a variety of different legal forms. Normally, you could get a copy of a blank will from them for your state for $59.95. At the time of the writing of this article, they actually had a special where you could get it for $20. So, for those trying to save a buck. this might be the way to go.
However, I would not go this route unless I had some sort of legal experience or understanding of a lot of “legalese.” This site will provide you with a blank form, and you are on your own as to how it is filled out and with what information. Once again, considering the importance of this document, I am not sure I would go this way for fear of leaving out something important. But, I guess if your wishes are simple, or your situation is simple (single, no dependents) then this may be a viable option.
If you go this route, it seems to be quite user-friendly and it could more than likely be completed in a matter of about thirty minutes or so. It also depends on how much money you are willing to spend on this project when it comes to the various forms available.
Invest the Money and Do It Right
For those of us who are not legal experts and who don’t mind spending the extra money for the peace of mind of knowing that your will is done correctly and to your wishes, I would recommend the services of Legal Zoom. Yes, this is the same website that you’ve probably seen or heard radio and TV commercials for.
I was really surprised at how affordable their pricing is (at least for will preparation). Their packages ranged from $69 up to $119. The $69 option is fine, but spend $30 more and you can edit your will for up to one year. Go with the $119 package and you can get your will sent to you in as fast as one business day.
As far as the time involved, they mention on their site that 70% of their clients finished the process in less than 15 minutes. I don’t quite know that I’d be rushing through this process, but if you are pressed for time, this is another advantage.
I liked the Legal Zoom option over doing it yourself for several reasons. First and foremost is that is it is really not that much more expensive. Had I not come across their discount, we are only talking about a $10 difference between the US Legal Forms option and the base package from Legal Zoom. That’s really nothing.
Legal Zoom also seems to give you a much more complete and comprehensive product. I went through their questionnaire with mostly “mock” answers, and I found that they make distinctions in your will to make it as tax-conducive as possible (they lower your tax burden as much as they possibly can), they make specific provisions for the guardian care of your dependents, and even include such things as who will care for your pets. These all seem to be very important issues, especially if your death is sudden and no one really knows what your wishes may be.
All in all, I would definitely go with Legal Zoom. It’s not that much more expensive than the DIY method, you get your finished will in a relatively short period of time (you can get it in just about a day if you need to), and it doesn’t seem like they leave anything to chance.
The subject of death and wills and everything else can be considered morbid by a lot of people, but you are doing your loved ones a disservice if you don’t have at least something put together in the form of a will. No matter which option you decide on, I would definitely decide on something. The last thing that I want is my family and/or friends standing over my grave fighting over my possessions. I think we can all agree on that.
Have you had a particularly good (or bad) experience involving a will? Share it with our readers and visitors below.
(photo credit: babasteve)