Should I Use a Last Will and Testament Template?

Should I Use a Last Will and Testament Template?

by Brette Sember, Esq., September 2015

Deciding to plan for the future by creating a last will is an important step, but do you really need to hire a lawyer when there are so many last will and testament templates available? Having a will made is so crucial that either method is fine, but there are certainly benefits and drawbacks to using a last will and testament template.

Money Talks

The difference in price is one of the best reasons to use a free last will and testament template. If you hire a lawyer to create your will, it could cost between $200 and $1000. A free last will template costs you nothing and an online service that prepares a will for you by walking you through some questions costs much less than an attorney does. The cost savings are significant.

Simplicity Speaks

Most people who seek to create a will have simple estates. The average person has a home, a spouse, some bank accounts, a vehicle, some investments, and some valuable personal property. There is nothing complex or confusing.

In fact, a lot of that property is probably already set up to pass without a will (a home owned as tenants by the entirety or investment accounts owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship pass without a will just by the way they are owned). If you do not complete a will, the rest of your assets are distributed according to your state’s intestacy law (the law that governs what happens to property that isn’t protected by a will or other estate plan), so it makes sense to take a few minutes to fill out a form that clarifies your wishes.

If you just want to be sure all of your property gets left to your spouse or your children or grandchildren (or if you have specific items you want to give to specific people, such as jewelry or meaningful mementos), a free last will and testament is an easy way to accomplish that. The smaller your estate, the easier the case becomes for using a will template.

Free will templates allow you to choose an executor who will manage your estate, as well as a guardian if you have any minor children. Writing a will template allows you to cover every single important issue that needs to be addressed to provide complete peace of mind in most situations.

Complex Cases Benefit from Advice

While it is true that the majority of middle class Americans can easily use a last will and testament form, there are some situations in which it makes sense to talk to an attorney about your situation to make sure you are doing everything necessary to protect and preserve your assets, reduce your estate tax, and ensure your wishes will be carried out.

If you have a large estate (over $5.43 million, the federal estate tax exemption) or larger than the exemption your state allows for its estate or inheritance tax, it is important to do estate planning with an attorney who can help you reduce your estate tax. You may need trusts of various kinds and you might want to plan lifetime gifts to protect your assets.

If you are married and would like to disinherit your spouse in your will, you should meet with an attorney instead of using a last will and testament free template. It is difficult to disinherit a spouse in a will (most states give the spouse a right of election, allowing them to collect a set percentage of the estate no matter what the will says), but an attorney can help you use other planning methods to accomplish your wishes.

If you are in a situation where you think some of your relatives might try to contest your will, or if you think someone might try to say you were not of sound mind when you signed your will, you should see an attorney instead of relying on a last will template. These can be very complex situations.

Other situations when it pays to get legal advice include if you own part of a small business, you have already created a living trust or want to create a living trust, or if you have a disabled child. In these situations you may want an attorney to help you create a plan that can’t be challenged.

In most situations, a will template is an easy and inexpensive way to make sure your wishes are known and carried out. Most people can get everything they need by using a will template, with little cost or hassle.

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