There are no DVD's, books, kits, forms or online programs that effectively analyze what you need or don't need to protect yourself. If you think that you are saving money by not using an attorney I would suggest that you are incorrect. I have been doing estate planning for 25 years now and I can unequivocally say that it pays to do estate planning properly - both financially and in terms of not having the stress and problems (either you or your family) as a result of
It won't cost you much to consult with a local estate planning attorney. He/she can tell you what they believe that you need - maybe powers of attorney, maybe a will and maybe a trust - and maybe not. The attorney needs to review your situation, your family, your assets and the law and give you educated advice. This comes not only for a book but also from years of practical legal experience.
I hope that you do the smart thing! Best Wishes!
Legal Disclaimer: Paul A. Smolinski is licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois only, and as such, his answers to AVVO inquiries are based on his understanding of Illinois law only. His answers are for general information about perceived legal issues within this question only and no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to extend any right of confidentiality between you and Mr. Smolinski, to constitute legal advice, or create an attorney/client or other contractual relationship. An attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement including an evaluation of the specific legal problem and review of all the facts and documents at issue. We try to insure the accuracy of this information, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. The reader should never assume that this information applies to his or her specific situation or constitutes legal advice. Therefore, please consult competent counsel that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction and who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances.
A will drafted by a competent attorney can still be challenged in court while a quickly written note on a paper plate, signed and dated by the author could properly hold up. It is not necessarily who prepared the document but what it contains that matters. Whether it is Suze Orman's or the office supply store's do-it-yourself fill-in-the-blank form, the biggest concern you should have is whether or not the document says what you want it to say. Unfortunately, Suze Orman has no idea what you own and how you want it distributed when you die. Ms. Orman also has no idea who may or may not potentially challenge your will. While a fill-in-the-blank form will is better than no will at all (sort of) it would still be a good idea to sit down with an attorney who handles wills and estate matters and explain your wishes and answer the many questions he or she will have for you. Without asking you specific questions, there is no way to know exactly what you want. In addition, there may be better ways to protect your family than simply having a will. Keep in mind many wealthy people who paid good money to have a lawyer draft a will still have family members battle in court for years challenging the will. So, even if you cannot afford an attorney now, it may cost your family members a great deal of legal fees later trying to figure out just what Suze meant to say about your "stuff." It is also possible that when Ms. Orman passes away, her very own will may get challenged. Good Luck! A call to a local attorney is the best advice I can give you.
The comments listed here do not create an attorney-client relationship. The comments are for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice. This attorney is only licensed in Michigan and does not give legal advice in any other state. All comments are to be considered conversational information and you should not rely on these comments as legal advice or in place of retaining an attorney of our own. The comments here are based solely on what you have provided and therefore are general in nature and with more specific facts or details a different answer or outcome could result. The legal system is not a perfect science and this attorney does not guarantee any outcome.
I agree with the other responses. There are at least two other reasons to meet with a lawyer instead of trying to do it yourself with a kit. 1) If you have a question or a concern, you have someone to call. I doubt is Suze is going to answer your questions. If she does, she is not a lawyer and does not know the laws of all states. 2) If there IS a problem with your estate plan, you have someone who can deal with it, AND someone who can testify in court as to what your intent was, when you set things up. Suze is not going to do that. Neither will LegalZoom or Office Depot.
There is a reason why people hire professionals to assist them. Is it possible to fix your own brakes? Can you handle all of your own investment decisions? Do you prepare your own tax returns? Do you go to a doctor when you are sick or take care of it yourself? Sure, if you take the time to educate yourself and gain the knowledge and experience to take these things on, you CAN do it. I have also seen (and helped to clean up) numerous messes, when things were not done properly.
You have spent your entire lifetime amassing your estate and you want to try to use a $35 kit to take care of that? I think that you owe it to yourself and your heirs to handle this correctly. It may cost a whole lot less than you think to hire and attorney. It will probably cost a whole lot more than your kit, if you do not.
I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on 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 state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.
Penny wise, pound foolish. Would you pull your own tooth if you had a toothache? At least you would be around to fix the mess if you did. Once you die, nobody will be able to undo what you have done or failed to properly do when alive. Find the money and hire a decent lawyer.
By the way, I have challenged and defended do-it-yourself wills, and I can say that certain problems tend to come up with DIY wills on a regular basis. Inconsistencies, ambiguities, omissions, and improper execution all come to mind.
No legal representation exists by virtue of this answer. Consult your attorney. Licensed to practice law in Indiana and Illinois. Circular 230 Disclosure: any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.
The fill-in-the-blank or Will kits can be valid Wills and can be upheld in Court. However, they should never be used as anything other than a starting point for you to think about your Will and estate planning.
These kits are not designed to apply to particular situations. They are designed to be general so as to appear to apply to many.
You should use a kit as a way of preparing for your visit with an attorney who specializes in estate planning.