Dear Mary: My husband insists that the will we created 25 years ago, when our oldest child was an infant and we lived in another state, is sufficient. I do not! How do we go about finding a competent lawyer to create a simple will? I've asked friends for recommendations, but nothing has come of that. Also, what should a basic will cover? I need the peace of mind that comes from having our affairs in order. — Bettye
Dear Bettye: I want to applaud you for recognizing this need, but more than, that for your tenacity. I do have a solution for you that I am certain will bring you and your husband great peace of mind.
Every adult needs his or her own will — one that is frequently updated and compliant with the laws of the state in which that person maintains permanent residence. I cannot stress enough how important this is: At the very minimum, you and your husband need your own separate wills.
To die intestate (without a will or with a will that is not lawful for any number of reasons) is to leave a big fat mess for your survivors. Without a proper will, you run the risk of seeing the assets you intended to leave to one another or to your heirs gobbled up by the state and attorney fees. A will simply states to whom you wish to leave your earthly goods. It does not preclude probate, but it allows the state to know your wishes as to the disposition of your assets.
A family trust, on the other hand, is more extensive and does not take the place of a will. It is a document that is created to accompany one's will.
Drawing up a will is one of the simplest jobs that an attorney does for a client. You could call the chamber of commerce in your city to get a recommendation for an attorney who specializes in wills and trusts, or I'd like you to considering doing this yourselves.
Please take a look at Quicken WillMaker Plus 2019 from Nolo Press, a highly regarded and reputable online legal organization specializing in helping ordinary folks like you and me handle our own basic legal needs.
The Quicken WillMaker Plus 2019 includes dozens of forms including the big five documents every adult needs, and practical forms you can use every day to help run your home and keep your family safe, including authorizations and agreements, promissory notes, limited powers of attorney, and child and elder care forms.
The Quicken WillMaker Plus 2019 is compatible with the laws in every U.S. state except for Louisiana* (and is not compatible with U.S. territories and Canada). Boy, is it easy to use — just fill in the blanks. And you can revise it in the future as necessary without another big legal bill.
You can purchase and download this program from the Nolo Press website for $80. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac.
Then, in the privacy of your own home, customize your individual wills — all before tomorrow morning.
You can depend on those documents to be properly prepared, completely legal and simple for those whom you will designate to be in charge of your finances, health and possessions — if and when the times comes.
*Because of Louisiana's strict requirements and unique civil law system, it is not wise to rely on a generic "last will and testament" form. Failure to get the form exactly right will result in an invalid document, or perhaps worse, lead to estate litigation.
Nolo does offer a simple will maker for Louisiana residents that has been prepared and vetted by a team of attorneys. If you live in Louisiana and wish to also create your durable power of attorney and health care directive, see a Louisiana lawyer for help.
For additional information about these DIY legal documents, see www.everdaycheapskate.com/NOLO or www.everydaycheapskate.com/louisianawill.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.