The process and cost of making a will
A will is one of the most important documents in life. If you die without one, your affairs can be in limbo for many years. You could end up leaving behind big problems like your family being unable to pay bills as the money you left behind is being locked off by banks. While many people know the importance of a will, few understand the process of making one and how much it costs. No matter what age you are at, if you have assets such as a house, business or even savings and have people whom you would like to look after, you should consider making a will.
Why make a will
While it may feel awkward to start planning for death, you should consider how worse the situation can get if you became incapacitated or died through accident, illness or old age before sorting out your financial issues. Without a will, your loved ones may suffer months or even years of grief. There are several reasons why you should make a will:
- Children. If you have children or step children who are under the age of 18 years, you can choose who will take care of them and ensure that there are funds to take care of them.
- Unmarried couples. If you aren’t married to your better half, you should not expect anything to go to her as the law doesn’t recognize the union unless you provide for him or her in a will.
- Divorced. If your previous partner remarries, you can decide what happens to your property by making a will.
- Pets. Through a will, you can decide what happens to your pets.
- Change of circumstances. After remarrying, divorcing or having kids, you can update the will to take care of your current situation.
- Small business. If you were in a sole proprietorship and you die without executors, it will be difficult for your staff to authorize payment and this could lead to the collapse of your business.
What to include in a will
It is necessary to know what to include in a will and how to make it legal. A will should reflect your wishes. The most common reason why people make a will is to distribute their property. A will can also can name your executor, name the guardian to your children, describe how to pay debts and taxes and be a backup for a living trust.
There are things that you can do in your will. You can make arrangements for your final journey. You can also put conditions to your gifts. For instance, you can state that a certain property should pass to John when he finishes college. You can also make arrangements for your property or money to be left in a certain way, such as a trust. In order to make your will legal, you should:
- Sign the will
- Have two witnesses
- In some states, have a self-proving affidavit signed by a notary. This is not mandatory.
It is not necessary for your witnesses to know what is in your will. Instead, you can simply gather them and say this is my will before asking them to sign.
Cost of making a will
If you just need a basic will, you can create one online or simply buy a legal form from the store. These methods are far less expensive as compared to hiring a lawyer to do the will for you. There are also many internet based companies such as BuildaWill.com, Legalzoom.com and Nolo.com that allows you to make a will from your PC. These take you step by step through a series of questions to help you do the will. You can then print the will and have it signed by at least 2 witnesses and notarized.
The cost of doing an online will ranges from $20 to $100. You can also buy the standard will and testament of ready-made forms in stores such Office Depot, Staples and OfficeMax. These cost between $5 and $20.
It is also important to note that there are situations when you are better off hiring a lawyer to create the will for you. These include:
- If you have large estates and need help in planning them
- There are concerns that the will may be contested by someone or there may be claims that you were of unsound mind when doing the will
The cost of hiring a lawyer to create a will often cost between $100 and $1,000. Of course, with lawyers, it is always possible that the cost could go up.