Do You Really Need to Pay Big Bucks to Make a Will?

The short answer is: no! Yet, you should enlist the services of a professional if you have any significant assets to distribute.

By Leah Felderman  

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Back in the old days you could hand write a will, have some witnesses attest to your testamentary capacity, sign off, and be done with the legal aspects of passing on. These days, especially with the evolution of a litigious society and the emergence of potentially severe tax ramifications, it is not that simple. Yes, holographic wills are still valid in many states, with a variety of caveats depending on the state. Yet, if there are any significant assets to distribute it is wise to seek assistance from a professional.

Do I have to pay a lot of money to make a will?

No! There are plenty of free services for seniors to assist in drafting a will. Rules for wills vary by state so make certain to seek the services of a professional licensed in the state you are a legal resident of. Free and reduced fee services can be found from a variety of outreach programs including state and local programs, nonprofit groups, and even through a service group you may already be a member of (such as a rotary club, USAA, or even your local bank).

Why should I enlist professional help? It's my money, I should be able to do what I want!

It is your money, but if you don't want somebody else to take a sizeable chunk of it before your beloved grandkids get their college tuition then proper planning must be employed. Without a will, a person's estate gets divvied up in accordance to local laws. This usually heavily favors spouses and blood relatives after paying off creditors and taxes. Forget to officially get divorced decades ago? Has your roommate unknowingly and unintentionally become your common law spouse? What about your beloved adopted children that you never, technically and legally, adopted. Not having even a basic will on file can lead to unintended negative consequences for your loved ones, on top of the pain of being bereaved.

A general rule of thumb is the more assets you have to distribute and/or the more recipients you wish to gift, the more complex your will is and the more it will cost to set up and execute. Don't get bogged down by the details, that's the benefit of engaging a professional. Your final wishes are of great importance so don't be afraid to spend the extra money to ensure your wishes are met and executed efficiently: you can't take it with you anyways!

Top tips to start your estate planning

Leah Felderman BA MA

About the Author

Leah Felderman is a proud alumnus of University of Central Florida (BA) and San Diego State University (MA). She has worn many occupational hats including teaching, hospitality management, government contractor and non-profit organizer. She is an intrepid international traveler having visited over 60 countries before happily settling down into her new life chapter of domesticity as a mom and Coast Guard wife.

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