Using Software to Write a Will

In Using Software to Write a Will, a Lawyer Is Still Helpful


QUICKEN WILLMAKER PLUS 2011 This program felt like the most substantial, given the sheer amount of information it provided throughout the form-filling process. Because the program is actually written by Nolo, which publishes do-it-yourself books and software for legal matters, it appears that Nolo is drawing from its vast instructional library. If you have a question about a specific issue, like how to choose an executor, you can dive into its easy-to-read legal manual.

And before you choose whom to leave your property to, the program encourages you to take inventory of what you own and describes what type of property actually passes through a will — an important point because items like 401(k)s, I.R.A.’s and insurance policies do not (they go to the beneficiary named on the policy). Several lawyers pointed out that you might run into problems if you didn’t properly coordinate all your assets.

For instance, if you have minor children listed as the beneficiaries on your insurance policy, but you want their money to go into a trust, which is in the will, then you need to name that trust as the beneficiary on the policy.

Ms. Twomey also said that I left it up to New York State to decide how to pay estate taxes. That aside, the Quicken will seemed fine for the most straightforward situations: I want to leave my assets to my spouse, then my children or some other assortment of relatives. It was also cheap; the program costs $41.99 and includes other legal documents that complete the estate plan, including a health care directive and financial power of attorney.

Quicken also asked how I wanted to pay estate taxes, something I couldn’t answer with confidence. It quickly became clear that anyone worried about these issues should consult a lawyer. And before you rule yourself out of that category, consider that the state estate tax is levied on assets above $675,000 in New Jersey and $1 million in New York. That could potentially affect middle-class families whose modest homes and retirement accounts have appreciated over several decades, or even someone with a large life insurance policy.

Comment: We used software to do our most recent will - 7 years ago, as I recollect. I believe we used Willmaker (but I think it was before Quicken bought them). I hired a notary to come by the house to seal it all up and witness the signings. Legalzoom also mentioned in the article.

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