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Related: Do I need an estate plan?

Question:  Can I save money by doing my own will online or by buying a computer program?

Answer:  Yes you can save money now by doing either.  However, in the long run, that may be a very unwise choice.  There are several reasons for this.

First, the estate tax law and the probate law are extremely technical.  There are tens of thousands of pages of law, regulations and case holdings and some of that law is different for each state.  In addition, that law changes very frequently.  That is why we recommend that you work only with an attorney who spends a majority of his or her time doing estate planning.  If just one word is incorrect in the tax clauses of your documents, an estate tax of 45% could be due.  Since each situation is unique, and the law changes frequently, it would be most unwise to try to use a very simplistic approach online or contained in a software package.

Second, there are many questions that could arise after your estate planning documents are completed, sometimes years later, and almost certainly after your death.  You and your loved ones need a relationship with someone who you can trust to answer those questions in a manner that is in your best interests and the best interests of your loved ones.

Do you have any kind of estate plan, such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney for health care and property?

If so, how old are they?

If older than 10 years, review and updating as appropriate is recommended.

If not older than 10 years, were they done by a specialist?

If not, review by a specialist is recommended.

If you do not have any estate planning documents, did you know that:

(1) You could get “stuck” on life support and use up all of your assets.

(2) You could require a guardianship court case if you become incapacitated.

(3) A guardian will be appointed by a probate judge if you and your spouse pass away while any of your children are under 18, and the judge may pick anyone he or she likes.

(4) Your children will receive their inheritance all at once at 18.

(5) If you have more than $100k, your estate will be tied up in probate for 1 to 2 years. During that time, it may be difficult or impossible to receive funds for support.

(6) The probate case costs from $4,000 up to 8% of everything probated.

(7) Creditors come first in probate: they could take away your children’s support and college.

(8) The probate is public: anyone can open the file and see everything you own and at what it is valued.

(9) If you have property in another state, your estate would be probated there as well.

(10) All of the foregoing problems will be solved with proper planning.

 


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