The Importance of Living Wills: The Biggest Financial Decision You May Never Make
by Mark Skousen, Chairman, Investment U
Friday, June 30, 2006: Issue #552
Each year, more than 1 million Americans die without a will. If you don’t make a will, you die “intestate,” and it’s not a pretty sight. In fact, it’s downright expensive to your estate, costing you thousands in unnecessary expenses. When you die intestate, the state courts take over and create a will for you according to the laws of the state. If you have a surviving spouse, he or she may not get all of your assets. The law in many states divides up the property between the spouse and the children.All in all, dying without a will is a disaster for most people. Don’t let it happen to you. In this issue, we’ll review the importance of living wills and let you in on some free and low-cost tools that can help you finalize what could be one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make.
While all this is being sorted out, your funds for your burial and for day-to-day expenses may be frozen for months by the court if your bank and brokerage accounts are in your name only.
Write a Living Will Today Cheaply
For example, several years ago California attorney Robert Shapiro (of O.J. Simpson fame) created a new legal website, www.legalzoom.com, that allows you to create your own will for $69. After you go through the process of identifying your heirs and dividing your property, a paralegal reviews your document, which is legal in every state, and sends you a copy.
There Are Several Benefits to an Online Will:
1. You don’t have to use an attorney if you don’t want to. All the forms are online and confidential. You just fill in the forms, pay the fee and get a copy. The paralegals at Legal Zoom review the document to avoid common mistakes.
2. You save a lot of money. The average attorney fee for a will is around $500. Online wills cost $69 at Legal Zoom, and $19.95 at www.legacywriter.com
3. You can update your online living will at any time, even in the middle of the night. Going back to your attorney to update a will can be costly.
Shapiro’s company does more than estate planning and wills. You can set up a corporation, a living will, and even a no-contest divorce online. His website also offers an incredible amount of free legal advice.
The Advantage of a Living Will
Whether you have a will or not, your estate will be subject to probate costs, which can range from 2% to 10%, sometimes higher, depending on the size of your estate and the state in which you live. The smaller the estate, the higher the percentage. In addition, a probated will is public, and anyone can see your will and who gets what by going to the court records. To avoid probate and to maintain your financial privacy, you may want to set up a Living Trust or Living Will. Legal Zoom also does Living Trusts for $300.
These online legal services are a tremendous boon to the individual who can’t afford attorney fees, or who likes to do things privately. I urge you to act today and complete a living will, or living trust. It will give you peace of mind, and it will likely allow you to save and pass on more of the money you’ve made from investing and saving.