Only 50% of Americans have a will, yet 100% of us are going to die.
Do you have a will in place to organize the distribution of your money, assets and possessions after you pass on? If not you are not alone. ABC News reports that only about 50% of Americans have a will.
Why? Many Americans hate discussing and planning for death, but if you don’t your loved ones will have to deal with legal impacts that could leave them tearing their hair out.
It’s not uncommon for court battles regarding the possessions of a deceased individual to drag on for years, costing a lot of money in the process. When you consider how easy and cheap it is to get a will these days, there is no excuse for not getting it handled.
If you are not yet convinced that a will is needed, then here are some convincing points to consider:
Funeral preferences: Are you the type that has specific wishes for how your funeral should be handled? Do you even want a funeral? The best way of ensuring those wishes are honored is to put all the specifics in a will.
Kids: Of course if you have minor children, they will need to be taken care of and brought up as you wish. There are ways to ensure children go to the best caretakers and even ways to protect your money so that it is your children who benefit. Don’t get caught in the trap of avoiding a will because you don’t know who will take the kids. It won’t get easier after a tragedy.
Pets: One of the most common things that get overlooked when someone dies are the pets involved. It makes sense to leave ownership of your pets with a person you can trust to look after them. For instance, if you have a dog and don’t mention them in a will, then it’s a possibility they could end up in a dog pound – surely not something you want, right? I have three couples willing to take our cats in our will. Gotta make sure my cats Jake and Riker are taken care of.
Division of money: Let’s face it when it comes to dividing up money between family members, some deserve it more than others. Maybe you want the money to go to your spouse; maybe you want it to all go to your children instead. A will allows you to choose who your money goes to and in what quantity. Without a will the court will end up dividing up your money and assets – it could end up in the hands of who you would least want it to.
A wise man should have money in his head, not his heart. – Jonathan Swift
OK, I’ve convinced you to get a will. Next questions: Where do I get one? There are numerous places, and you won’t have to pay outrageous lawyer fees to do it either.
The cheapest way to get a will nowadays is online. Here are your options:
Legal Zoom: this costs $85 and is popular for its simplicity.
Rocket Lawyer: the cost here is free for the first seven days, then $19.95/month or $119/year.
Nolo Quicken Willmaker Plus: this costs $39.70 for the book and software.
Nolo Online Will – This is $34.99 and is all done online.
Out of all the options above the place to start would be Willmaker simply because of how interactive it is. You get to customize your will, but only up to a certain point. The biggest limitation with using software to create a will is the lack of detail you can include.
These cheap and quick services are great for those who have normal lives and want to leave their assets to family.
Every state has different laws on wills, so call your local county office and ask if they have will creation assistance. Many will have information or may even have a form template for you.
When setting up car or home insurance, you might be able to select an add-on which allows you to create a will on the cheap. Even if you are given a template of a will, you can complete it yourself and hire a lawyer to go over it. This will be significantly cheaper than hiring a lawyer to complete a will from scratch.
Not all insurance deals have this option, so you need to check with your insurance company to see what options they have available for you.
There are charities out there that will effectively “lend” you their lawyer to draw up a will. However, it’s expected with such arrangements that you name the charity in your will. Therefore, if you are planning to leave part of your money or assets to a charity, then find out if there is a lawyer you can put to good use.
These methods will save you money when creating a will. There is no reason to be paying a premium when you have so many effective and simple to use options out there.
I listed this last as it will likely be the most expensive option. But if you have a complicated life and do things like own many different types of properties in many states or own a business, you likely do need the knowledge and experience of an attorney.
Attorneys who draw up wills are called Estate and Will attorneys. Don’t just pick an attorney who is closest to you. Do a little research, read reviews and call ahead to compare pricing. Check the website Martindale for attorney reviews.
To be a financial rock star means you are managing money throughout your life, don’t forget to plan for the end of the tour.
Now that you’re ready to start on your will, check out this article on 4 Financial Topics All Couples Should Discuss”