Ask Stacy: Where Can I Find a Cheap Will?

Kevin’s facing a familiar challenge: He needs a will, but doesn’t have the money to pay a lawyer. What should he do?

One of the most important financial documents you can have is the one you’re least likely to want to use: a will. That’s probably why so few people have one. Not only is thinking about death a rather depressing thing to do with your weekend, but a will is also a legal document, which means lawyers might be involved — never a pleasant, or inexpensive, proposition.

Here’s an email I received. See if you can relate.

Dear Stacy,
I recognize the importance of creating a will. As a college student with a young family, I feel that this is an important piece of providing security for my family. However, I do not currently have the money to hire a lawyer to write one. Is there a cheaper easier way to write a will? I have heard that there are websites that can guide you through the process of creating a simple will. Is this true? Can you recommend a reputable source for more information? Thanks.
– Kevin

The short answer to your question, Kevin, is yes. There are websites and software that can help you write a simple will inexpensively. And because legal documents like wills often involve standard language known as “boilerplate,” software is a seemingly logical place to save some serious cash over hiring a lawyer to prepare a will.

Unfortunately, however, software isn’t always up to the task. For example, in this article, Consumer Reports reviewed three software solutions for creating your own will: LegalZoom ($69), Rocket Lawyer (Free for seven days. After that, from $7 to $50 monthly, depending on the plan), and Quicken WillMaker Plus ($50). Their conclusion?

All three are better than nothing if you have no will. But unless your needs are very simple – say, you want to leave everything to your spouse with no other provisions – none of them is likely to meet your needs. And we found problems with all three.

The problems they found included outdated information, inability to adequately customize, incompleteness, and too much or too little flexibility.

On the other hand, nolo.com — a great place to get all manner of legal information and advice — says that online wills are fine for most people. From this article on their site

If you’re like most people, you won’t need a lawyer. With good self-help materials, it’s not difficult to make a will that takes care of basic concerns, such as leaving a home, investments, a small business and personal items to your loved ones. And if you have young children, you can use your will to name a guardian to take care of them, as well as someone to manage any property they inherit.

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