A will is a document that can dictate everything from who would raise your children to how your siblings might manage the estate after your death. A will can be scribbled on a napkin or it can be a multi-page document that costs hundreds of dollars in attorney fees. Who needs a will, though? The answer is simple: everyone who doesn’t want the State deciding who gets what. Individuals who care about who, when and what their heirs receive, should have a will.
A will contains the names of the people you want to benefit, as well as details of your possessions at the date of your death. Possessions and property include everything you own: land, your home, bank accounts, vehicles, furniture, life insurance policies, and investments such as stocks, artwork, personal jewelry, and more. A will is the only document that ensures your assets will be dispersed according to your wishes.
Wills should be updated every five years, or after major life events like birth, marriage or divorce. The document should be kept in a lock box at a bank, or in a fireproof safe at home. Hiring an attorney to draw up a will can cost anywhere from $400 to $2,000.
Even people who are single with no children and have modest assets can have complicated wills since they often include ancillary documents such as living wills and power of attorney.
Power of attorney is the document that gives another person legal authority to be a representative speaker on behalf of another person reiterating their intentions. When you create this document, you are acting as the principal and the person you give the power to is your attorney, in fact. A will is in effect after death, but power of attorney is a living document. If a person is alive but incapacitated, the rights over assets and their care can be given to a third party.
There are software options that might work for the most basic wills. Be aware, not all are state-specific and some are outdated in terms of laws. Those are the sort of issues you don’t have to worry about when you hire a legal professional.