While looking up how to make your will, you probably found a ton of advice: forms at office stores, articles on financial websites, legal websites that have you answer some questions and spit out a form will, and finally, an estate planning attorney. Every category has good and bad options. Some websites offer good advice and some forms are pretty good. The problem for most people is that it’s hard to tell the difference between the good and the bad will forms. This can be the case for choosing lawyers as well.
What are some problems with online will forms?
When reviewing a plan for a client, or offering a will for probate we see a lot of interesting things. Sometimes documents are missing a self-proving affidavit, missing initials, or documents without notary acknowledgments. Each of these present their own unique challenges. Trying to make a will on your own leaves you vulnerable to guessing at how the document should be prepared, executed, and stored.
This is in addition to issues like inadequate description of an asset. You may make a designation that is not permissible (unless you’re related by blood, your best friend from out of state cannot be your personal representative). Maybe leaving the house to your grandkids who are 2 and 3 years old sounds great, until you realize some of the practical issues related to infants owning real property.
What are some problems with lawyers who draft wills?
Like everything else, not all lawyers are the same. Some lawyers don’t keep up with changes in the law. They may not have up to date notary jurat- a missing check box that could invalidate your entire will. The worst possibility is that the lawyer isn’t preparing the will that may be best for you.
As you are researching how to draft a will, have you come across any articles about how to pick the attorney that will represent your personal representative? It is not a common practice. In fact, it’s only one step better than the drafting attorney asking you to designate them as your personal representative and giving themselves sizable gifts- both which are unethical except in very limited circumstances. .
Recently, I reviewed a plan for a potential client. The drafting attorney charged less than $50 to prepare the will. That’s because he required the inclusion of a provision naming him as the attorney who would represent the personal representative. He was using his client to plant the seed that would yield fruit worth closer to $2500-3500!
The most offensive part of this practice is that this type of designation is not enforceable in Florida. The personal representative can choose whichever Florida probate lawyer they want. The reality is that this attorney knew that he might be able to charge a few hundred dollars for will, but the real money is in probate. He knew the provision was not enforceable. He also knew that most people would think it was enforceable. He knew he would most likely make more on the probate.
Are wills that cost more than $50 really better?
In a lot of cases, a combination of wills and beneficiary designations on bank and brokerage accounts can really serve people well. Sometimes I get to draft really interesting contingent gifts for people who want very specific gifts to be made. I get to hand craft those, and it is very rewarding. We usually charge around $350 for a basic will, and around $700 for a full plan for one person including a will, durable power of attorney, health care surrogate, declaration of living will, designation of pre-need guardian (these prices may change).
When we prepare a will or trust, we are preparing it to fulfil the wishes of one person- you. We don’t pretend to force your descendents to hire us after you die. You and your family are our only concern. Whether you have a relatively modest estate or a large estate, I would like to be the person your family hires to administer your estate, but I would like to get that business because I am the right person to do the job- not because I tricked you.
You should look at our other blog posts about wills, estate planning, and probate (reading about probate can help inform your choices in drafting your will). If you want an attorney who is going to prepare a will that is focused on your needs, contact us for a free estate planning consultation by clicking here or in the chat window..
This post is for informational purposes only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Richert Quarles P.A. You should seek legal guidance for specific answers to how the law may apply to your facts.