Many people avoid making wills because they overestimate the average cost of making a will, and also because they don’t like dwelling on their own mortality. By doing so they ignore the fact that creating a will is the only way to make sure that your assets and property will be distributed according to your wishes after your death. Although wills are sometimes contested, they are legally binding documents.
Basic Information About Wills
There are several different types of wills, which fall into two categories: simple and complex. The average cost of making a will can vary from $20 to $30 for will-creation software to the cost of attorney fees for consultation and preparation assistance. Regardless of the type of will that you choose, all wills must be prepared by someone who is at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor, must be signed by two or more witnesses, depending on the laws of the state, and must name an executor--someone who is responsible for making sure that the terms of the will are fulfilled.
People who don’t have complicated estates (i.e., large amounts of money or large amounts of property) can choose this option, which is the least time-consuming and also the most inexpensive. Do-it-yourself wills, or simple wills, are considered legally binding as long as they are signed by the appropriate number of witnesses and follow the correct format. You can use a software product to help you create your will online at sites like nolo.com for about $50 or purchase a book outlining the format for a simple will and draft one on your own.
A will is considered to be complex if there are a great deal of assets, such as money and property, involved. Wills are also considered to be complex if there are bequests to specific persons other than the named beneficiaries involved, if there are several beneficiaries named or if it is expected that the will might be contested at a later date. The cost of preparing these wills varies by attorney, with the minimum fee starting at around $250 an hour and increasing from there, depending on length of preparation time.
Consulting an Attorney About Your Will
The average person can probably prepare a simple will without having to consult an estate attorney, but there are times when it is advisable or necessary to do so, particularly if you aren’t sure which type of will is best for you. While the cost may seem prohibitive, keep in mind that some attorneys do offer one-time will consultations at slightly lower rates. Also, keep in mind that without a will, your assets and property will be divided by the state, and your family members will have little or no say in this process.
If you are preparing a simple will and would like to obtain-low cost legal assistance, you should contact your local Legal Aid group or association of student lawyers. Using these services can help to greatly reduce the cost of will consultation and preparation. You can also find information online at sites such as findlaw.com, where you can learn what constitutes a valid, legal will, regardless of the type and who prepares it.