Are You Still Without a Will, Like Me?

by Kevin on October 26, 2012

Shame on me.

Since my wife and I moved to Tennessee back on the last day of 2010, we have been without official wills that will work in the state of Tennessee. And, despite my best intentions, I still haven’t resolved the problem.

Are you like me?

Have you put this important task on your “to do” list, but let it slide down… down… and down?

That’s a big mistake, and I’m making it right there with you.

Why You Need a Will

Having a proper will in place is probably the most important financial, life, and estate planning document you can have. Yes, having life insurance and knowing where that policy is really important, but the will still trumps the potential multi-hundred thousand dollar payout for your family.

How is that possible? One piece of paper trumps a big life insurance payout?

Absolutely.

Here’s why: your family getting a check for $500,000, $750,000, $1 million or more in the event of your death isn’t all that great of thing if you don’t have a will. This is because all of your estate then goes to the dreaded probate court.

What the heck is probate court and why can’t my family live it up on my death?

Probate court is essentially where your state presides over a gigantic argument about every single thing you own. Every asset will be under scrutiny, and different people can claim you wanted them to have that asset.

These gigantic arguments can run for months if not years. So not only are you dead and your family emotionally traumatized by that… but they are now having to go back to court over and over to argue about your estate. That includes your life insurance payouts.

Bleh. Don’t do that to your family. Get a will.

How to Get a Will in Place for Your Estate

There are a couple of different ways you can put a will in place.

First, you can use an online legal form website like LegalZoom to order a will for your state. You then fill in the blanks on the form. This is the cheapest option by a substantial margin.

Alternatively, you can get a lawyer to put a will together for you. That means the lawyer is going to charge his or her hourly rate or perhaps a flat rate they do for wills.

Is a Lawyer Needed for a Will?

Which option is better? If the first option costs you $50 and the second one $300, you would lean toward the first option.

That’s why I did when we lived in Alabama. And to be honest with you, I’m not sure we ever technically had a real will in place. This wasn’t the fault of the online legal form company we used. No, this was user error.

Even with some instructions, it was still really confusing deciding what exactly we were supposed to put on the form. And we never had it witnessed and notarized like most states require.

So we’re not going to do that this time. We’ve visited with a lawyer, gone over our options (including whether we should use an LLC or just umbrella insurance), and will be getting a will soon.

Just not soon enough.

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