Toledo Talk

Preparing a Will

Any recommendations on getting a will prepared? I have put this off way too long and need to get this done (Not getting any younger). Has anyone used legalzoom for this? Should I spend the money required to hire a local lawyer to draft one for me?

created by Hoops on Nov 27, 2012 at 12:59:21 pm     Legal     Comments: 13

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That depends a great deal on what type of assets you have. For most people with only a house and a handful of investments/account, doing it based on stock forms is probably reasonable. Although, you have to be careful because many of those forms are not tailored to Ohio law.

If you have assets totaling more than $250,000, I would recommend you find a lawyer who specializes in Trusts and Estates. Make sure it is someone who has defended these actions in Probate Court, not just someone who says they have written hundreds of wills. I am an attorney and technically I could write your will, but it would be worth about as much as one you did yourself. You want someone who has successfully argue these issues in a contested probate, that way they know what not to do when writing the next one.

posted by MoreThanRhetoric on Nov 27, 2012 at 01:50:07 pm     #  

No matter what your assets total I believe going to a lawyer is wise. Simply leaving your assets to others is usually painless. But there are other consideration to consider i.e. durable power of attorney when no longer able to take care of own affairs, medical power of attorney to someone who knows your wishes, etc. Also for many a trust is the way to go.

The closer I get to the pearly gates the more aware of how I want my end of life to go and who gets the say. Very important.

Many years ago I got a referral from the Bar and it gave me about half off the total bill.

posted by jackie on Nov 27, 2012 at 04:19:43 pm     #  

I should keep my glasses on. I thought this was titled "preparing a wii" I was getting ready to tell you what cords go where.

posted by karen on Nov 27, 2012 at 04:33:30 pm     #   2 people liked this

MoreThanRhetoric posted at 12:50:07 PM on Nov 27, 2012:

That depends a great deal on what type of assets you have. For most people with only a house and a handful of investments/account, doing it based on stock forms is probably reasonable. Although, you have to be careful because many of those forms are not tailored to Ohio law.

If you have assets totaling more than $250,000, I would recommend you find a lawyer who specializes in Trusts and Estates. Make sure it is someone who has defended these actions in Probate Court, not just someone who says they have written hundreds of wills. I am an attorney and technically I could write your will, but it would be worth about as much as one you did yourself. You want someone who has successfully argue these issues in a contested probate, that way they know what not to do when writing the next one.

I agree with getting an attorney who specializes in trusts and estates, but not one who is so bad at drafting that they actually wound up in probate court having to defend their work.

I worked in a law firm and none of the estate planning attorneys had ever wound up in court depending their wills or trusts. That doesn't mean we did bad work, that means we did our research, followed updates in the law, and constantly attended continuing education to make sure we stayed on top of developments.

And quite honestly, there is more to estate planning than what the probate court oversees - things like federal and state tax issues that a probate judge would never hear or even know about because you're dealing with the IRS or a state agency. And how to retitle assets before death that a probate judge would not be ruling on. Seriously, good estate planning attorneys are not litigators. We're transactional attorneys and out best work is outside of the courtroom.

There are many reasons to use an attorney, and considering a trust in addition to a will is a major one. What happens to you if you become incapacitated, temporarily or permanently? A will does nothing in that case, a trust does. Are there minor children that may inherit? Dealing with that in a will is not ideal.

Estates of all sizes should consider a trust, if for no other reason than to avoid guardianship issues if you become incapable of handling your affairs. Last thing you want to do is force your family to go to court to gain power of your person and estate in order to pay your bills and manage your affairs if the unplanned happens.

posted by MrsArcher on Nov 27, 2012 at 06:40:25 pm     #  

I should clarify - I'm an attorney and I worked in a law firm.

posted by MrsArcher on Nov 27, 2012 at 06:41:15 pm     #  

I am an estate planning attorney. Probably about 90% of what I do is wills, trusts, guardianships, powers of attorney and estate/trust administration. I can tell you from experience that drafting your own will (and that's what you are doing with LegalZoom) is a bad idea. I've had to deal with defective wills quite a few times and it always causes more problems and costs more money in the end. The worst part is that the error is not usually discovered until after you die. When you consult with a qualified estate planning attorney, you will probably talk about your life in depth and come up with a plan that is tailored to your personal situation. That may mean just a will, a health care power of attorney and a living will. Or it may include creating revocable or special needs trusts, durable powers of attorney, transfer on death designations, etc. Each situation is different, but everyone should have a will, healthcare power of attorney and living will.

The will obviously designates where your assets go after your death, but for those with minor children, it also would detail who you would like to be the guardian of your children should you and your spouse both die before the kids reach the age of majority. A healthcare power of attorney designates someone to make healthcare decisions for you when (and only when) you cannot make decisions for yourself any longer. These decisions include end of life decisions about when to withdraw treatment. A living will covers end of life decisions only. It doesn't appoint anyone to do anything, but rather makes your wishes clear about what treatment, if any, you want if you are in a permanently unconscious/terminal condition.

Estate planning is definitely not a one-size fits all kind of area. If anyone has questions for me in this area, feel free to shoot me an email at toledoattorney@gmail.com

posted by Ace_Face on Nov 27, 2012 at 10:05:31 pm     #   1 person liked this

Mrs. A - I was in no way advocating hiring a bad attorney who malpracticed his way into a probate dispute. I am suggesting that Hoops look for an attorney who has dealt with wills that were contested by someone in the family, not as a result of the attorney's work, but because the family is less Brady Bunch and more Desperate Housewives.

posted by MoreThanRhetoric on Nov 27, 2012 at 10:26:10 pm     #   1 person liked this

I am glad to see this thread, as my wife and I were just discussing the fact that we have not updated our will in 15 years (the attorney who drafted our estate planning went to prison for embezzlement and got disbarred, and we have since been putting off getting a new one). Also, our circumstances are much different now, as we no longer own a business and our children are now adults.

Thus, I am just lurking and learning from the wise and experienced posters. My only contribution is to echo what has been said many times above: do-it-yourself legal work is risky, and even the simplest of legal matters can turn unexpectedly complex. One time I defended myself pro se on a BS lawsuit, and while I "won" my case (paid nothing and got to politely tell the corporate litigants to go f**k themselves) I ended up putting in about 40 hours worth of work on researching the forms, studying case law, and the vasious legal interactions (letters back and forth, responses to motions, and so on). Luckily the case never went to court, as this would have been even more time and money (I was named in one of those shotgun approach cases where the plaintiff sues everyone even remotely connected with the case, and I was several degrees removed, as it involved a business I once owned but which the dispute occurred years after I sold the business).

Now, at the time I was making less money, and it could have wound up being $1000 or so to make this go away, but in the end I am not sure that I really saved any money when I think about all the time I spent on this. Even as a starving graduate student with seven kids my time had to be worth more than that.

posted by historymike on Nov 28, 2012 at 05:11:52 am     #  

good info, definitely will not use something like legalzoom. Time to go through proper channels and not shortcut this process.

posted by Hoops on Nov 28, 2012 at 11:26:31 am     #  

Pay an attorney. Put your mind at ease. My brother's self written will did not hold up in probate. He was a careful, intelligent, diligent person. But he didn't know the law.

posted by holland on Nov 28, 2012 at 11:27:20 am     #  

MoreThanRhetoric posted at 09:26:10 PM on Nov 27, 2012:

Mrs. A - I was in no way advocating hiring a bad attorney who malpracticed his way into a probate dispute. I am suggesting that Hoops look for an attorney who has dealt with wills that were contested by someone in the family, not as a result of the attorney's work, but because the family is less Brady Bunch and more Desperate Housewives.

Got ya, I misread the intent; thanks for the clarification. I was going to say will contests only happen when a lot of money is at stake, but after thinking about it - no, it can happen with very little at stake if someone has the money to pay an attorney hourly.

posted by MrsArcher on Nov 28, 2012 at 01:36:21 pm     #  

Sadly that is true. I do mostly criminal work and have had two different cases that resulted in some way from a contested will. It is amazing what family will do to one another over even the smallest amount of money.

posted by MoreThanRhetoric on Nov 28, 2012 at 04:37:51 pm     #  

^^^^^

You aren't kidding. Usually though, it isn't about the money, it is about settling scores now that Mom or Dad isn't around anymore.

posted by Ace_Face on Nov 28, 2012 at 09:10:01 pm     #