People often find that writing a will is more of an emotional problem than a legal problem. For many, the will is really quite simple, but the reality of confronting your own mortality gets in the way. It is just not a pleasant topic for discussion.
I understand this reality, and I try to make it as easy as possible. I have a form that I ask that you complete, listing your assets and telling me what you want done with your property. I then draft a will that does what you want, and e-mail it to you for your review. We can then discuss it, either by e-mail or phone, and rework it until it says what you want it to say. When it is right, and only when it is right, I’ll have you sign it. Note — if you have or expect to have less than $5 million in your estate, there are not likely to be any Estate Tax consequences. If you expect to have more than $5 million in your estate, I will direct you to someone with particular expertise in Estate Tax Planning. Most of my clients do not have Estate Tax consequences.
If you have minor children, you will probably want to put your assets in trust for them if there is no surviving parent. If you have a child who has special needs, I can prepare a special needs trust.
Along with the will for you and your spouse, I will prepare advance medical directives and, if you want them, powers of attorney. When I write wills, I charge by the hour, and in most cases I can do what you need done in less than 2 hours of work. Obviously, if you have unique circumstances, or — let’s be blunt here — you go back and forth and can’t make up your mind, it may take more time than that. But for the simple wills that 99% of people need, 2 hours of attorney time may be all that is needed to give you and your family the knowledge that their future is protected.
And what about LegalZoom and some of the other software packages that are available for less than $100? I have looked at some of them, and the documents that they produce. From just the document assembly side, the wills are perfectly legal, and they will probably accomplish what the client wants. The problem is not with the document assembly — it is with the questions that have to get asked before the document is assembled. If you want something a little different from what LegalZoom thought you meant, will you notice that? The program won’t. And even if the program produces a will that does what you want, how will you know that you got it right? The test comes after you’re dead, when you can’t fix it if it is wrong.