A Will is a Will

A Will is a Will. Comparing one Will to another is an “Apples to Apples” comparison. Isn’t it?

Aren’t they all the same? Is a $200 Will the same as a $2,000 Will? The real answer is an emphatic NO! A Will is NOT a Will. Not even close. Not even an “Apples to Oranges” comparison. More like the “Apples to Rolls Royce” comparison.

You see, there are Wills, and then there are WILLS. But aren’t they the same thing? No way! The first group is garbage. The second is detailed, specific, and accurate. The first kind creates problems. The second kind solves problems. The first kind is cheap when you buy it and costs you money when you need it. The second kind costs you money in the short-term but saves you money in the long run.

Think of a cheap Will like buying a knock-off purse on the streets of New York City. Even if it’s pretending to be a Louis Vuitton bag, you know it’s not one, and it won’t hold up like one as time goes on. The fake will fall apart if you grab the handle too hard, but the real deal will hold together no matter how much you stuff into it.

Most of the time, clients that spend $200 on Will think they are getting a good deal but they are actually getting ripped off. They paid $200 for something as useless as empty pages, so they paid $200 for 15 cents worth of scrap paper. The documents don’t address current rules, don’t address real estate, don’t speak to digital or online accounts, and don’t have contingency plans built-in. They don’t speak to estate planning transfers between spouses or your wishes regarding dementia care. As I said, it's junk.

Case in point: I’ve been seeing an online service popping up on my Facebook page offering “estate plans for $200”. That sounds like a good deal, right? Sure, until you read the fine print. The website was filled with bad information. First, they claim to be nationwide, but the site doesn’t have lawyers doing the drafting for each state and uses the same documents for each. Next, they have basic information about every state, and the information they had on Massachusetts was dead wrong! For example, it stated that a Massachusetts Will does not need to be notarized. That is 100% incorrect. Next, their site guarantees your money back if a lawyer reviews your documents and says they are ineffective. In other words, they have no idea if whether or not their documents are even legal! Just cut out the middleman and flush $200 down the drain.

legal advice It’s not always true that you “get what you pay for”, but when it comes to estate planning, that old axiom is proven again and again. A bargain basement estate plan is cheap for a reason – because it’s garbage. While yes, I do think that you get what you pay for when it comes to an estate plan, note that just because something is expensive, doesn’t make it good. I’ve reviewed documents that were very expensive and found they can be just as terrible as cheap documents. Don’t let price be the deciding factor – instead, find a law firm that shares your same ideals (See our Core Values, HERE) and has the requisite knowledge and experience. For example, our knowledge is demonstrated all over our website, with our books, reports, videos, and other materials.

The truth is that a simple Will is okay for some people. For the most part, people that have under $25K in assets, don’t own a home and don’t have kids, can get away with a simple Will, for at least part of their lifetime. But it’s dangerous to think that a “simple” Will is good for everyone. Read our free report about the Dangers of the Simple Estate Plan, HERE.

How do you know if you need something beyond the simple plan? If you need a law firm that specializes in these documents, as opposed to going to a general practitioner? How do you know if you’re a fit for our firm?

Here’s a checklist to help you:

  • Do you earn more than $100,000 per year?
  • Do you own a home?
  • Do you own a business?
  • Do your assets, including the value of your home and the value of life insurance death benefits, total over $1 Million?
  • Do you have a Trust?
  • Are you the trustee or beneficiary of a Trust?
  • Do you have children under age 21?
  • Do you want to avoid estate taxes?
  • Do you want to control the way your assets are left to your family?
  • Do you want to protect your home from long-term care in a nursing home?
  • Are you applying for MassHealth long-term care benefits, either by in-home care through a frail elder waiver, or facility-based care in a nursing home?

If you answered yes to at least three of those questions, then you should be consulting an attorney with specialized knowledge. 

What to do then? First, be prepared to spend money on your estate plan, to get it done right. A cheap plan can leave you exposed to taxes, probate, creditors, can leave your home open to nursing homes and long-term care liens, and can leave a real mess for your family to clean up. At the same time, don’t assume that a plan is good just because it’s expensive. Instead, look at the drafting attorney, and see what kind of experience he/she has: Are they top lawyers in the field? Do they publicly speak on the subject? Have they written books or articles? Do they have free educational materials? Do they have a set of core values by which they run the practice? The answer to all of these questions should be YES before you write a check. To learn more about hiring a lawyer, watch our video, What Makes A Lawyer A Specialist, HERE.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, download my free book Planning Ahead to learn more about estate planning and why it is so important!

Michael Monteforte, Jr.
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People come to me in trying times and when I tell them I can help them, the weight falls off their shoulders.
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