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I need two simple wills. Can I use legalzoom.com?

Atlanta, GA |

I need two, very simple wills. I am single. I have no kids. I am unmarried. I am currently living with my mother. My mother owns a home and 5 acres of land. I have money in a checking and savings account, a car, and some 401K money. My mother is already the beneficiary on my 401K money and the $200K life insurance policy I have on myself. These wills need to be very simple. In the advent of my death, I want my mother to get everything I own. If my mother dies before I do, she wants to leave everything she has to me. That is basically it. My question is can I use a service like legal zoom to prepare these simple wills, or do I need an attorney? If I use an attorney, how much should I expect to pay for two simple wills like this? My goal is to simply avoid going through probate court.

Attorney Answers 10

Posted

There is really no such thing as a "simple" will. Today, people have prior marriages/divorces and blended families or they want to disinherit someone. Or there may be other circumstances which take it out of the realm of a "simple" will. If there is anything unusual in your situation at all, then its not a simple will. And you would only know after consulting with an attorney, not relying on your own assessment.

Regarding Legal Zoom, there was an article in a recent issue of Consumer Reports on this. I suggest that you read it before you make your purchase on Legal Zoom. Try going to your local library or see if you can locate it.

While Legal Zoom may be fine for some people and situations, these do-it-yourself will kits may or may not comply with Georgia-law. Moreover, even if the will is fine, you may do something which causes a problem.

Don't let your legacy be an expensive lawsuit for your loved ones caused by you trying to save a few dollars now. Wills generally are not all that expensive. I recommend that you have a consult with a Georgia-licensed attorney and have the attorney draft your will to make sure that it comports with Georgia law.

While you give a description of some assets, this is by no means enough. For my clients, I have a 6-page questionnaire about assets/debts.

And why do you need 2 wills? Is one for your mother? Its not clear from your post. If so, your mother needs her own will and your post contains no details about her assets/debts.

Finally, there is no way to avoid probate totally. The only way to minimize probate is to get what is called a revocable living trust. There are guidelines that I use to determine whether or not a trust is something that is needed. Trusts are generally more expensive and labor-intensive to make sure that the trust is adequately funded. If done correctly, then they are a valuable vehicle for tax pursposes and to minimize probate. However, trusts are not something that should be done with a do-it-yourself kit from Legal Zoom.

Price depends on what the going rate is in your area. Shop around and ask estate planning attorneys the average price they charge for a will. Just to give you a ballpark idea, I have seen wills ranging from $99 to $250 per will for a complete estate planning package (includes a financial and healthcare power of attorney and living will/advance directive). I would not let cost be your guide. You probably do not need the most expensive attorney in town. Nor should you go with the cheapest. Rather, you should select a competent attorney with whom you feel comfortable.

Or try this site - I am sure that there are more than few attorneys here who will be happy to draft a will for you at a reasonable price.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks for your detailed reply Rachel. Currently in my life, it is as simple as it gets. I have never been married and have no kids. If anything ever happens to me, I simply want my mother to have everything I own. That is it for me. As for my mother, she has a mobile home on 5 acres of land. She has a car that I actually bought for her several years ago. My mother also has one son, my brother but my brother has his own house and land. I live with my mother. We all three have sat down and discussed this. If my mother dies or I die, we simply wish to avoid probate court. That is why we wish to have a will. My mother is my beneficiary on my life insurance, all my bank accounts, and my life insurance. My mother only has a cheap $10K dollar life insurance policy to bury her with. That is pretty much it. My mother is on Social Security retirement so she really has nothing as far as bank accounts go. She has about $100 leftover in her account each month after she pays all her bills each moth. My brother and I (mostly me though) help her pay for Rx medicines and other things when needed.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

You cannot avoid probate with a Will. The ONLY time a Will is used is in probate. You need something else, in order to avoid probate. What else that is depends on all the facts of your situation.

Asker

Posted

Ok, thanks James. The will will make the probate process easier though, correct? @ Rachel, yes I am talking about two wills. One for my mother and one for myself.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

In Michigan, it is not inherently cheaper or easier to probate an estate with a Will. You can nominate the personal representative in a Will, and that person would have higher priority to serve than an heir. Without the higher priority, you need to either get a waiver from the other people with equal priority, (such as your brother), or give them two weeks notice before you file the probate estate. It is not that big a deal. The better course of action, if it can be done, is to avoid probate. Michigan probate appears to be more costly and more of a hassle than Georgia probate.

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed. Get an attorney - it will be worth it in the long run.

Posted

You can, but it might be a case of being penny wise and dollar foolish. How do you know a will is even your best option? That's why you need a lawyer- to tell you these things.

This is AVVO, a place for users to obtain general legal information to general legal questions. I am glad to help you in any way I can, within those limits. I wish to make clear I am only communicating with you for the sole purpose of exchanging such general information, and nothing more. It is not legal advice, which I can not provide because among other reasons I know few of the necessary details of your situation. I do not purport to represent you in any way, shape or form. Of course, if you would like to seek out my services, and if you are a NY resident, I will probably not put up very much resistance but representation would still necessitate a signed retainer agreement between yourself and I. Thank you.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks Robert. What kind of lawyer do I need.? Rachel said above estate planning. Is this what I should look for when looking through the yellow pages for example for an attorney? Thanks again for your reply.

Robert A. Stumpf

Robert A. Stumpf

Posted

A wils and trust/estate planning attorney....really two different terms for the same thing. Good luck

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

A Will is NOT the best option if the goal is to avoid probate. An estate planning lawyer can help you find a better tool for your objectives.

Robert A. Stumpf

Robert A. Stumpf

Posted

An attorney that does estate planning doesn't do wills?

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Only when they need to be done. For someone who wants to avoid probate, Wills are not very useful, in most cases.

Robert A. Stumpf

Robert A. Stumpf

Posted

Right, I know...I was just trying to direct this person to a certain kind of attorney. A "wills" attorney and a "estate planning" attorney are interchangeable terms, I thought.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

I agree with you. I thought you were needling me for not recommending Wills more strongly! ;-) Aren't you known for your wry observations? ;-)

Robert A. Stumpf

Robert A. Stumpf

Posted

ha! You're a good sport, always enjoy your comments.

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed.

Posted

Do not consider this for one minute. It is a huge mistake. Both attorneys offer sound advice and you need to have some estate planning done here. For more on estate planning and other issues, see Estate Planning Mistakes: 5 Not So Easy Pieces at http://www.sjfpc.com/estate_planning_drafting_wills_trusts.html. Please hit the like button at the end of the article if you found it helpful.
I will make my point with one comment. What happens if your mom predeceases you and you have drafted this so-called simple will. What happens to your wealth and who administers your estate if she dies first. Stop messing around here and sit down with an estates attorney who can give you insight and guidance. These legal zoom companies offer no advice and planning and documentation expertise. Do not do this on your own.
Hope this helps.

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Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336, his email address is sjfpc@comcast.net , for more tax, estate and business articles visit his website www.sjfpc.com. and blog

LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is sjfpc@comcast.net , his website is www.sjfpc.com. and his blog is <http://frommtaxes.wordpress.com/> Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.

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Asker

Posted

You asked what happens if my mother dies before I do. I am talking about 2 wills here. If I die, I want my mother to have everything that I have. If she dies before I do, she wants me to have everything that belongs to her. Thanks so much for your input. I figured if my mother dies before I do, then I will need another will and designate another beneficiary.

Steven J. Fromm

Steven J. Fromm

Posted

You really need to sit down with an estates attorney as you are missing some things here conceptually. And what about a family atomic bomb, where both of you die simultaneously. Then what? Get with an estates attorney as a forum and drafting on your own will not do the trick.

Asker

Posted

Ok, thanks Steve for you input. Much appreciated friend!

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed.

Posted

I want to agree with my colleagues and add two other points. First, probate in Georgia is not an expensive, burdensome process as it is in other states. There may be good reasons to avoid probate (such as owning property in one of those states which has a burdensome probate process), and an attorney can advise you on whether you have any probate-avoidance issues.

Secondly, wills must be signed with a certain formality. If those guidelines are not met, the will is invalid. Many people with "simple" estates thought that they could get away with an on-line program, but they ended up being intestate because the will was not signed with the appropriate formalities. Thus, the small fee they paid for the "simple" will ended up being a waste of money. Spend the money to get your will done properly.

Unless you came into my office, signed a contract and wrote me a check, I am not your attorney, and you are not my client. This is not intended as legal advice and should only be used for informational purposes only. You should never believe any information that you receive on the internet, especially information that is probably being provided in the late evening hours when I should be sleeping.

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James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Well said!

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed!

Posted

Greetings:

Please do not use legal zoom to write two wills. It's not worth the risk. This is especially true if you want to make sure that assets are non-probate assets.

As you will note on legal zoom in their "Disclaimer", they state this is not legal advice and for informational purposes only. How they can get away with this, I don't know.

Lastly, and to make it short, legal zoom can create problems beyond your imagination. DO NOT USE THEM IF YOU EXPECT TO HAVE ESTATE AFFAIRS SET UP CORRECTLY AND "PLAY OUT CORRECTLY".

We are looking at land and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am quite sure it is well worth two $500 wills to make sure matters are handled correctly. Additionally, you need POA for General Purposes and a DHC (also called a POA for healthcare or durable power of attorney for health care). I suspect for another $250 on top of each $500 ($750 for a will General POA, and DHC/Health Care POA), you should get some good quality work that is easy to change if times or circumstances change (since docs are in Microsoft Word/Word Perfect) in case changes need to be made.

So, do it right. It's not worth the worry, hassle, and potential for severe and terrible consequences to occur.

Sir, call my Firm, we will do all 6 documents for $1,000.00

With Best Regards,

Duncan H. Adams

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Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed!

Posted

As an American, you have the right to make your own decisions even if it is against your own best interests. You can create a will through legal zoom, but it will NOT acheive your goal of avoiding probate. A basic understanding of the forces at work is required. In its most basic sense, a will serves as instructions to the Probate court as to how you wish your estate to be administered. What you really need is some advise on basic probate avoidance techniques, whether that includes use of a trust, POD/TOD, joint tenancy, or other non-probate transfer vehicles is a matter for a more detailed discussion.

INDEPENDENT LEGAL ADVISE IS RECOMMENDED. The forgoing opinion is based upon limited and hypothetical information. The answer provided is not intended as a substitute for legal representation and is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship.

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James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Well said!

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed.

Posted

I agree will the previous posting. Get an attorney to do your will right. The cost is well worth the expense. If you would like to discuss the matter further, please feel free to give us a call at 404-636-6616.

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Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed.

Posted

You have some pretty complete answers above. I just wanted to point out one other issue.

I understand the need to be frugal. However, a will is not just for you. It is also designed to put your affairs into order so that someone else can step in and help fulfill your intent both during life and after you have died. Do not increase the work of others in such a daunting task without giving them good quality documents to perform.

I sometimes tell clients that everyone, no matter whether they are rich poor, married single, etc has a life as big as a one acre lawn with all their life, financial and health experiences and issues. Don't ask someone to come over to your place in a time of need to mow that lawn with just a push mower in the garage. If they care enough about you to be willing to step in, care enough about them to give them the proper tools to succeed. Get a good estate plan. It will save money in the long run because death is a certainty and many of us have a disabling event before we pass away.

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Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Agreed.

Posted

Simple wills do not avoid probate.
You need to discuss other options like
a trust to avoid probate.
Nothing could replace a face to face
meeting with an attorney to discuss your options.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks Joseph! I really appreciate the time it took you to respond.

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

Good advice.

Posted

Never be shy about calling up a law firm and asking what they charge. You may find that you can have a face to face meeting with a lawyer and get your wills done that way for the same price or not much more than what LegalZoom will charge you for a computer interaction.

There is good and bad about the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of lawyer advertising in the late 1970's. The bad is the never ending stream of tv commercials. The good is that you can call a lawyer and ask about price and in most cases expect a straight answer without having to make an appointment.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks so much Jonathan for your response. Good deal, I will definitely call and ask.

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Bonnie Klein Rhoden

Posted

I agree, a call is an easy thing to do!

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