Your Will (Without Spending a Fortune)

I suppose it's human nature to put off writing a will - especially if we consider ourselves young and healthy. But we all know God could call us up to him any time, and not having a will can make things much more complicated for those we leave behind.* My brother didn't have a will, which made me kick myself for putting off my own will-making for so long. I encourage you to stop putting it off, too. Whether you're concerned about the cost (which can be next to nothing) or you simply don't like thinking about your death, it's important to get your will completed. Your children and family will thank you for it later.  

Will vs. Legal Trust 

The first step is to make sure a will is the best choice for you. A living trust is often recommended, because it prevents the estate from going into probate - which is a way of saying the court system has at least some control of what happens to your children and your property. However, laws regarding wills and legal trusts vary from state to state. To determine whether it's smarter to have a will or a living trust in your particular state, it's best to consult a lawyer in your region. Usually, a question like this can be answered with a simple phone call and a small fee. (You can read more about will vs. living trusts at Legal Zoom.)  

But if making this choice is going to keep you from getting your wishes on paper, it's better to just write a will. Even if your family must go through probate, at least they'll have an excellent idea of what your wishes are. And a will is easy to create on your own, for little or nothing. 

 Wills for Every Budget 

There are several choices for will-writing:  

1. Find a free example online and copy it. Ideally, you'll find a will appropriate for the state you live in. These are pretty easy to find if you Google "free sample will" and the name of your state. However, there's no guarantee the sample will is legally up to snuff. But again, if you don't want to spend money on a will right now, this sort of will is far better than having no will at all. 2. Pay under $50 for a will form. Again, these are easy to find by Googling "will form" and the name of your state, but it's tough to say how sound such wills are.  

3. Go to Legal Zoom and get the paperwork done for a small fee. Legal Zoom guarantees the will (or living trust) will be up to snuff and they charge under $70 (at the time of this writing) - far cheaper than hiring a lawyer.  

4. Hire a lawyer in your area. This usually costs several hundred dollars, but you may feel more comfortable that the contents of the will or legal trust won't be called into question. 

 What to Cover

There are three basic things you'll want to make sure are covered in your will: 

1. Who will be the guardian of your children. (List at least two choices, in case one person is unable to take the children at the time of your death.) 

 2. Who will get your property. 3. How you would like your body cared for after death.  

Finalizing the Will 

 Once the will is complete, you'll need to gather together some witnesses. All the options listed about should indicate how many witnesses are needed. But remember: The witnesses should not be named in your will. Together with your witnesses, visit a notary. Banks provide this service for a small fee - or for free - if you bank at that location. The notary will watch as you and your witnesses sign the will, then he or she will notarize the document. Keep the original document in a safety deposit box or fire safe in your home, and distribute copies to your siblings and anyone named who might take guardianship over your children. 

It took me just a half hour to type up a copy of a will for both myself and my husband, and it takes just minutes to have it notarized. The cost is $0 on up, depending upon whether you hire an attorney and depending upon how many assets you have. And in return, you'll have peace of mind.  

* I am not a lawyer, and you should not consider this post legal advice.

No comments