Got LegalZoom? If are considering it, there are 5 things to know about it before you do it.
Most people know that they need a will to protect their family, but hesitate to meet with a lawyer because of expense, time and effort. Many people have turned to online programs such as LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer to create a will. These programs have been compared to TurboTax where users fill out questionnaires that are used to create a will. Such programs are inexpensive, quick and convenient. However, some people still hesitate to use an online will program because they are not sure it will cover all their estate needs and do nothing at all about getting a will or creating an estate plan.
It is important to first understand why a will is needed. If you have no will, the government has an estate plan for you by way of state intestacy law. State law determines who will administer your estate, who will take care of any minor children and who will get your assets if you have no will. If you have a will, you can appoint an executor to administer your estate, appoint a guardian to care for your minor children and determine who will get your assets.
There are a number of provisions that make up a will. The declaration states who is making the will, their residence and that the current will revoke any prior wills. The family section of the will names the spouse and children. The debt section of a will declares that all debts, expenses and taxes of the estate will be paid by the estate. The will also has a distribution section stating that distributions will be paid to heirs after debts of the estate are paid. The will also names the executor who will administer and act for the estate. A will also name a guardian for any minor children. Finally, a will waives any bond that would be posted by the executor.
There are 5 things to consider before deciding whether to use an online program like LegalZoom. One advantage to using LegalZoom is that you do not have to meet with a lawyer; lawyers do have a reputation for being difficult, expensive and sometimes hard to understand. Moreover, LegalZoom is cheap (about $69.00), fast and convenient; whereas hiring a lawyer to create a will can cost much more. However, a will by itself does not cover all assets of an estate. Additionally, a will by itself only covers certain situations. A will governs after death, but does not cover a person who is still alive but has become incapacitated (dementia or coma). Powers of attorney for health care and property, not wills, govern incapacity. Finally, having a will doesn’t mean probate court is avoided. A will, by itself, does not allow an executor to administer an estate. The probate court needs to approve a will before issuing letters of office, which is the document needed to administer an estate.
Robert Monahan, Esq. is a lawyer in Gurnee, IL with his own practice in personal injury. He has a radio show on Thursday nights at 7 pm, called “Everyday Law,” on WRLR 98.3 FM, where he tries to demystify the law for the ordinary person. “Everyday Law” can be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes or other various podcatchers. His two websites are www.monahanfirm.com and www.gurneepersonalinjuryattorney.com. He also has two Facebook pages – “Robert A. Monahan, Esq.” and “Everyday Law.”